Leaders give Arlington Chamber members optimism for phase 2

By Updated: May 14, 2020 6:26 AM CT | Published: May 14, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Local leaders in Arlington are optimistic the second phase of business reopenings will happen next week under the countywide “Back to Business” plan as data surrounding COVID-19 is promising for that occur right now.

“All numbers are showing that we should be on pace to open on Monday, May 18, for phase 2,” said Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman. “What phase 2 looks like I won’t know until tomorrow (Thursday).”


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Wissman was joined by other local and state leaders Wednesday, May 13, at an Arlington Chamber of Commerce virtual luncheon via Zoom who gave pandemic-related updates.

State Sen. Paul Rose commended all the municipal mayors in Shelby County for cooperating with the Shelby County Health Department in efforts to reopen businesses as safely and as soon as possible.

<strong>Paul Rose</strong>

Paul Rose

“It’s an understatement to say that business owners, employees, school administrators, teachers, nurses, parents, lawmakers … all have struggled through these last two months of COVID-19,” said Rose, who serves on Gov. Bill Lee’s COVID-19 task force. “I’m very optimistic that we’re going to get opened back up.”

Among other goals, Rose’s task force has worked to keep the construction industry going the past couple of months.

Some businesses reopened May 4 under phase 1 of Memphis and Shelby County governments’ Back to Business plan, but to launch phase 2 openings, health officials are examining key information that includes increased capacity for COVID-19 testing, adequate hospital capacity to handle an influx of patients and the ability to carry out contact tracing for residents who test positive.


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“Hopefully, the support and help that’s been offered from the federal and state levels, frankly, will keep all the businesses in business,” said state Rep. Tom Leatherwood. “That is our goal; it’s our objective. We know it’s been tough. (Gov. Lee) does want to open up safely. We all do. But he also wants to open up quickly.”

<strong>Tom Leatherwood</strong>

Tom Leatherwood

State revenues in April were down $693 million from projections, according to Leatherwood.

“So, when we go back, we’re definitely going to be addressing the budget, and frankly, it’s going to be a tough time to be a legislator,” he said.

Before the shutdown, approximately $900 million in cuts were made to the governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 that begins July 1, but none were made for this year. Leatherwood sees cuts being made to the current fiscal year budget as well as more cuts to next year’s budget.


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The good news is the state was up $605 million for the fiscal year before the shutdown, and it has $1.1 billion in its rainy day fund.

“The governor did say the revenue projections, while down, are better than original estimates, and the coronavirus containment has been better than some expected,” Leatherwood said.

<strong>Tammy Mason</strong>

Tammy Mason

Retiring Arlington Community Schools (ACS) Superintendent Tammy Mason touted the district’s success with at-home remote learning since schools shut down in mid-March, and says they are anxiously waiting to see what happens with phase 2 reopenings.

“We have some very important things for our special needs kids that get services, whether it’s occupational therapy or speech therapy,” Mason said. “The thought of them being without any kind of those services for five months is very daunting for those kids.”

She hopes to be able to set up some summer services for students with 10 or fewer people, and ACS is already working on how to handle different scenarios for the fall.

“We’re working on multiple contingency plans right now,” said Mason, who will be succeeded by current ACS Chief of Staff Jeff Mayo as superintendent at the end of the school year. “Even if we do start back in August on the day designated, we know that it won’t look like a typical first year back to school because we will have kids out of school for five months, so there’s going to need to be some reacclimating back into a traditional school setting.”


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For parents who don’t feel safe sending their kids to school, dual instructional paths are being considered, including online learning at home and in-person training.

This week the district completed in-person graduations, letting a student and their families participate individually in the ceremony. The separate videos will be edited together into a full ceremony that will be shown Tuesday, May 19, on the district’s website.

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Saint-Francis Hospital-Bartlett sponsored the event.

“We were very fortunate that we were able to open (elective surgeries) back up last week and limit our schedule,” said Will Lowes, the hospital’s director of strategy. “We’re testing patients prior to surgery, and it’s going very well. So, we look forward to phase 2 to be able to add services and be able to expand our schedules, and one of the things I’m looking forward to is being able to add visitors back to the hospital.”

He says the industry is struggling with a huge drop in ER visits.

“We really want to get the message out to the community that it is safe to come to the hospital,” Lowes said. “We have pathways where you will not be mixed with COVID-19 patients, and the fact is, we haven’t been inundated with patients that have COVID-19, fortunately.”

Topics

Arlington coronavirus COVID-19 Reopening

Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian with more than 20 years of professional writing and editorial experience, working most recently with The Daily News and High Ground News.


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