MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department is taking steps to continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic in the area. Health Directive No. 15 was issued Friday evening and takes effect Monday.
New restrictions include keeping dining rooms open but shortening hours of operation to 10 p.m. and setting new capacity limits at 50 percent.
Schools are also strongly encouraged to suspend all school-related close-contact sports at this time.
Health Directive No. 15 includes these changes:
1) For any establishment that serves food and/or alcoholic beverages is required to:
- Limit occupancy to 50%
- Close at 10 p.m.
- Require patrons to wear masks at all times except when actually eating a bite of food or drinking a beverage
- Limit groups dining together to 6 people (but no more than 4 adults)
2) Schools are strongly encouraged to suspend all school-related close-contact sports at this time.
3) Gyms remain open at this time. All employees and patrons are required to wear masks or facial coverings at all times while in the facility, except when in the swimming pool or shower.
4) Shelby County Government expects to be able to provide special financial supports of at least $5,000 for any business that faces closures of at least 30 days that is substantially related to Health Directive No. 15.
Shawn Danko, who owners Kooky Canuck said he’s relieved he can still host dine-in customers under the latest health directive.
“It’s far better than being shut down. I think restaurants around the city are breathing a sigh of relief in terms of we’re not hearing closure at this point, so this is really, really good,” said Danko.
Danko said the limited seating and losing two hours of business isn’t a huge difference from a few months ago when similar restrictions were in place.
“Yes we would love to have the two hours, we all would but if it meant two hours less or closure, we’ll take the two hours less, absolutely,” said Danko.
But the president of the Memphis Restaurant Association, Ernie Mellor isn’t as optimistic. He’s worried some businesses won’t be able to make it under these new limitations.
“We feel like our industry has been singled out versus a lot of other industries where you go around and there are people everywhere. in my mind it’s because we’re the only ones they really can control,” said Mellor.
Some customers said the new restrictions aren’t surprising but they say keeping a mask on while dining out will be different.
“That’s going to be a little complicated, probably make me want to stay in the house even more but we’re here for work and we wanted to come to a restaurant and we felt pretty safe,” said Melissa Barnett.
Some tourists say the new rules will change how they dine out in the future.
“It probably be a lot more take home, or more home cooking – that way its more manageable,” said Hillary Mosley.
The news comes after it was announced the positivity rate in the area continues to climb.
The health department has pointed to tripwires it considers in making health directive decisions like a seven-day average of 450 new COVID cases per day.
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