Social distancing efforts look ahead to Memorial Day

By , Daily Memphian Published: May 20, 2020 1:59 PM CT

Be like Mike and wear a mask — sort of.

Ahead of the upcoming three-day Memorial Day weekend for many, the local pandemic response team is doubling down on Phase 2 social distancing reminders — along with a few basketball analogies.

“If we want to win the championship, we must make our layups and free throws,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Wednesday, May 20, at the daily press conference of the local COVID-19 task force.

Strickland invoked the advice of basketball coaches and the example of Michael Jordan in the recent ESPN documentary “The Last Dance.”

When it comes to social distancing, washing your hands, wearing a mask and staying close to home but away from others are Strickland’s equivalent of Jordan’s practice regimen minus about 20,000 roaring fans and dysfunction among teammates.

Recommend or require: Dividing line in mask debate

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter touted a coming buildup of the health department with the approval of $2.7 million in immediate health department funding Tuesday by the Memphis City Council. The county provides the other two-thirds of the $9.1 million total to go toward beefing up contact tracing by the health department.

Haushalter says there will also be “strike teams” able to specialize in monitoring and dealing with outbreaks in nursing homes or prisons and jails.

Strickland, who proposed the immediate city funding, has also proposed $12 million in city funding for an expansion of testing.

Haushalter says three local labs have “significant” capacity to handle the uptick in testing.

“The majority of tests are being run locally,” she said.

UTHSC gives public access to daily COVID statistics

Haushalter described the city as being in the “early stages” of the pandemic compared to other parts of the world.

She also pushed back against the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, which is urging those who test positive for the virus and have concerns about their addresses being shared with law enforcement to decline to give their addresses.

“We do need to have contact information. But I would also add that address is important for isolation and quarantine. But it’s also important that we protect our first responders,” she said.

The information is provided by the state of Tennessee to the 911 dispatch system. When the dispatchers contact police, their system will alert to the addresses but not names of those with the virus under terms of the agreement. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department has said it does not participate in the use of the information.

“I really would encourage the public to consider their role in trying to not just protect the health of first responders but also to partner with public health so that we can work with them on being isolated and quarantined,” Haushalter said.

The increased funding this week for testing and the ability to hire 141 new employees for the health department with federal CARES Act funding represents a longer-range approach to the pandemic, although the federal funding has to be used by the end of the calendar year.

Strickland is already thinking about the city’s pre-pandemic push for a greater density in development of housing and mixed use development.

April home sales drop (only) 15%

“There is no doubt in my mind that our lack of density — while we don’t like it to deliver city services — may have worked in our favor in flattening the curve here and it probably worked against New York City,” he said. “I don’t know what the market will be after the pandemic, whether that will slow down. But I still think you will see most people want to live in a more dense area, such as Downtown or Midtown.”

Strickland saying he thinks that will be “the prevalent mood for development.”

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do

Meaningful news delivered to you each week

Coverage of the key happenings in our city including city hall, education, and more.

Manage Your Email Subscriptions


Jim Strickland Alisa Haushalter social distancing COVID face coverings
Bill Dries

Bill Dries

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

Comment On This Story

Meaningful news delivered to you each week

Coverage of the key happenings in our city including city hall, education, and more.

Manage Your Email Subscriptions