Surge prediction pushed to summer, broad compliance seen with ‘Back to Business’

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 06, 2020 3:30 PM CT | Published: May 06, 2020 2:44 PM CT

Three days into the reopening of businesses across Shelby County, officials say there have been lots of calls from businesses wanting to know how to abide by the first phase restrictions but no spikes in citizens reporting violations of the “Back to Work” plan.

City chief operating officer Doug McGowen said at the Wednesday, May 6, countywide COVID-19 task force briefing there is “broad-ranging compliance” so far with the guidelines for reopening businesses. But he emphasized the first group of nonessential businesses to reopen have only been open for three days. Hair salons were to start reopening Wednesday.

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Meanwhile, the expected surge, or peak, of COVID-19 cases in Shelby County has been pushed into the summer with a more precise recalculation in progress by the Shelby County Health Department. The original calculation was a surge anywhere between late May and mid-June.

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“We’ve continued to push that surge out,” Shelby County Health Department director Alisa Haushalter said. “The more recent calculations were that we would anticipate a surge much farther out, somewhere in June or July.”

A health department team is calculating a more precise estimate.

“I will reinforce repeatedly that the social distancing measures, if they work well, will actually flatten that surge and push it way out in the future,” Haushalter said.

<strong>Memphis COO <br />Doug McGowen</strong>

Memphis COO
Doug McGowen

McGowen said the surge is something the countywide COVID task force discusses daily.

“Obviously, preparing for the surge is something we’ve talked a lot about,” he said. “We’re about a week away from our alternate care facility being prepared and ready to accept patients should we need it.”

The facility is at 495 Union Ave., the former site of The Commercial Appeal.

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Haushalter said there are plans to do more virus testing at the Shelby County Jail, where pre-trial detainees are held. In late April, more than 70% of 266 detainees who were tested there were positive for the virus.

Most were asymptomatic, according to the Health Department, which is investigating the individual cases for contacts as well as whether prisoners had told jailers they were sick.

“We actually do significant chart review,” Haushalter said. “So we are reviewing charts to see if there were sick call requests. If there was a sick call, what happened? And then trying to identify additional measures we can put in place.”


COVID-19 recovery Doug McGowen Alisa Haushalter

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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