Update

Health Directive No. 17 loosening restrictions issued

By , Daily Memphian Updated: January 20, 2021 4:18 PM CT | Published: January 20, 2021 2:29 PM CT
<strong>Margaritas server Kyra Nava disinfects menus during the lunch time on April 27, 2020, in Munford. Beginning Saturday, Jan. 23, restaurants and bars in Shelby County will move from 25% to 50% capacity and museums and theaters will be allowed to reopen.</strong>(Mark Weber/Daily Memphian file)

Margaritas server Kyra Nava disinfects menus during the lunch time on April 27, 2020, in Munford. Beginning Saturday, Jan. 23, restaurants and bars in Shelby County will move from 25% to 50% capacity and museums and theaters will be allowed to reopen.(Mark Weber/Daily Memphian file)

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, COVID restrictions will loosen. Bars and restaurants will move from 25% to 50% capacity and museums and theaters will be allowed to reopen.

The Safer at Home restrictions issued Dec. 26 by the Shelby County Health Department, under which citizens were to limit activity outside their homes to only work and essential activities, will be lifted.


New, restrictive health directive out, effective Dec. 26


Businesses that closed under the Safer at Home order included the Memphis Zoo and Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

The zoo said it would reopen on Saturday.

Under Health Directive No. 17, no businesses are specifically closed, but all must adhere to safety restrictions, including masking, social distancing and capacity requirements.

Because businesses will be open, the directive relies on the stepped-up responsibility of each person, including not attending large gatherings and limiting gatherings in one’s home.

Under the directive, schools are strongly encouraged to suspend contact sports.

While bars and restaurants will be able to increase capacity, six feet of separation is still required between tables. Patrons must limit themselves to six people per table. The establishments still must stop serving at 10 p.m.

Smoking is still prohibited in indoor venues, but under the new rules, establishments will be allowed to have dancing outside, provided the dancers are six feet apart and from the same household.

The stricter rules went into place the day after Christmas, when the weekly positivity rate was well over 12%. In the surge that followed, daily cases hit nearly 1,000 three times between late December and Jan. 10, a pandemic record so far in Shelby County.

Last week, the numbers began to both plateau and drop.

Restaurants welcomed the news of having greater indoor capacity to seat customers, but some restaurants that closed their doors under the 25% capacity restriction were not sure how long it would take to reopen.


Chefs, restaurant owners react to looser restrictions


On Wednesday, Jan. 20, the Health Department announced 237 new cases and no new deaths, a level not seen in Shelby County since mid-October. Those improvements, plus the pace at which vaccines are being administered, prompted the Health Department to loosen the restrictions.

Sometime on Thursday, Jan. 21, the department has said it will announce the location where it will administer second doses to people who got their first vaccine shots in the last week of December or in early January.

Hundreds of members of the public were vaccinated the week of Dec. 27 without appointments on days the Health Department had designated for first responders. It later closed the line and began requiring badge numbers for first responders or proof of age for those 75 and older.

On Jan. 8, it released the sign-up link for first-dose appointments that would start the following week. In less than 24 hours, appointments were booked through the end of January, leaving little recourse for people wanting word on their second shots but to wait.

Many of those waiting are elderly.

“The dearth of information has caused much anguish in a segment of the population that has enough to worry about already,” said Shelby County resident Karen McCarthy, who added that “getting old is bad enough.” 

This week, the Health Department said it planned to give second doses, starting in late January, to about 9,500 people. It also said the holdup on when and where was because site contract negotiations were still being worked out.

Topics

coronavirus
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 healthcare and higher education for The Daily Memphian.


Comment On This Story

Become a subscriber to join the discussion.
Section Emails

Sign up to get the latest articles from the Metro section.

Manage Your Email Subscriptions