County offering COVID grants for close-contact personal service shops

By , Daily Memphian Updated: August 11, 2020 10:07 PM CT | Published: August 11, 2020 12:33 PM CT
<strong>Shelby County Commissioner Mickell M. Lowery announced a grant program for close-contact personal businesses affected by the pandemic.</strong> (Daily Memphian file)

Shelby County Commissioner Mickell M. Lowery announced a grant program for close-contact personal businesses affected by the pandemic. (Daily Memphian file)

People who own nail salons, tattoo parlors, barbershops and hair salons are eligible for $2,000 grants to reinforce their businesses, all which reopened with strict regulations in May.

“Today, many of these businesses have reopened but things look drastically different,” said County Commissioner Mickell Lowery, who announced the “Our Beauty Comeback Grant,” to help the hundreds of entrepreneurs here who own close-contact businesses, working face-to-face in generally small workplaces get reimbursed for the new cost of doing business.

“Our health directive requires them to reduce schedules, limit access to waiting areas, require masks for all clients and encourages the use of disposable capes and other supplies,” said Lowery, who owns a barbershop.

“These are grants, not loans,” he said.

The county commission and Mayor Lee Harris set aside $1 million for the effort, hoping to help 500 brick-and-mortar salons and other close-contact businesses. Go here to apply. 

“They’re taking the grant applications today and will move quickly to get those funds dispersed to everyone,” said Alisha Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department said. “The grants are to be awarded quickly.”

The grants, she said, were one of two examples of how community health data is being used locally to “drive decisions and actions,” Haushalter said.

The second is in the reopening of college campuses, including Christian Brothers University, where freshmen will be moving on campus Wednesday and Thursday. Classes begin Monday.

Although 80% of classes will be online or as a hybrid of remote and in-person learning, the campus moved forward with guidance from the health department, said president Jack Shannon.

“Let me be clear. While we will have students living on campus this fall, nearly everything about the fall semester will be different at CBU. Our cafeteria is focusing on meals that can be picked up and enjoyed outside or in student rooms or staff offices,” he said, noting that many campus services, including librarians and career counselors have been converted to remote operations.

“One good thing that might come out of this is that we rethought how we conduct our business day in and day out. Many of the virtual options that we have adopted in light of the pandemic, I anticipate that we will continue to offer because it provides us the opportunity in true Lasallian fashion to meet our students where they are and provide them with the services they need, regardless of physical limitations or time of day.”

Except for CBU’s nursing and physician assistant majors, only five classes will have enrollment of more than 16; 27 others will have between 11-15 students, Shannon said.

As students of all ages head back to school, the Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force is piloting a testing project to see how well it can test large numbers of asymptomatic people.

The results are being analyzed in pools or batches, which means that a 7-10 or more tests are run at once. If one or two come back positive, it is faster and less expensive to retest them then it is to retest the whole batch.

Pool testing is only a cost-savings in populations with positivity rates of less than 10%; the 14-day trend on August 5 was 12.3%, a decline from a high of 17.3% in late July.

“We’re seeing stabilization and a downward trend from those very high numbers that we had in July, which is very, very important,” Haushalter said.

In order to get better handle of testing for school, community-based testing centers are testing children. The schedule and ages being test are listed here.

With community partners, such as Christ Community Center, Church Health and others, Shelby County this week has capacity to test 8,000 people.

The county is also looking at new testing methods, including a saliva-based test and antibody testing.

As schools resume, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital has set beds aside in case of large upticks in pediatric cases, said Dr. Carl Sanchez, medical staff president at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

 “It’s something that’s a very fluid situation. As school starts back, kids get in close contact. We have a team at Le Bonheur that has been very active in the community, reaching out to schools, giving advice,” he said.

The extra space at Le Bonheur is part of the surge plan Methodist Healthcare put in place in February and March, Sanchez said.

“It’s really hard to say exactly how things are going to happen until they start happening,” he said. The challenge for healthcare providers, he said, “is opening the doors to see what those unknowns are and being prepared for them.”

Methodist also reported seeing wide-ranging symptoms, including abdominal and leg pain, in 50 asymptomatic people who came to the hospital for other reasons, Sanchez said.

In the spring, hospitals reported admitting patients sicker than usual because they had put off seeing care.

“If people need medical care, they need to present in a timely fashion so we can give them the best possible care,” Sanchez said.

On the bright side, he said, “over the last five or six days, we’ve had had some encouraging signs. The numbers are evening out,” although he said it will take another week or two to know how real the decline may be.

Shelby County now is reporting 250-300 new cases a day, down significantly from the 500, 600 and 700 in July, Haushalter said, noting that that the gains are the result of masking and the mandated closing of limited-service restaurants or bars.

“I want to point out that we continue to have a 1.3% mortality rate, which is significantly lower than the rest of the country,” she said.

The reasons are twofold; Shelby County has a younger population getting sick, and it has a strong healthcare system.

“That’s one of the strengths of Shelby County. And we are experiencing positive outcomes as a result of that particular strength,” she said.

Since the pandemic began, the health department has identified more than 22,000 people who were contacts. As of Tuesday, more than 9,000 people were in quarantine.


Shelby County Mickell Lowery Shelby County Health Department
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers business news and features for The Daily Memphian.


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