Harris extends county emergency order a week as 44% of county cases considered recovered

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 24, 2020 4:54 PM CT | Published: April 24, 2020 2:07 PM CT

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris Friday, April 24, extended county government’s emergency order for the COVID-19 pandemic to the end of April.

Harris said at that point, he is likely to change some of the conditions covering the unincorporated portions of Shelby County.

Suburban mayors have not yet announced details of their reopening strategy, although some details emerged during discussions later Friday.

Tennessee to reopen restaurants and retail stores with $5B loss in GDP projected

The renewal of the county decree follows Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s extension earlier this week of the city’s civil emergency to May 5 with new conditions that took effect starting Friday, April 24.

The changes include ordering big box retailers to limit the number of people in those stores at one time and requiring workers in those stores to wear face masks. The new conditions within the city of Memphis also reopen five of the eight city golf course as well as private golf course with COVID-19 conditions on social distancing.

The city’s decree goes for two weeks at a time. The county decrees and those issued by the six suburban towns and cities within Shelby County are for a week at time.

Harris said in a matter of days, there could be a coordinated set of new conditions among the seven city leaders and county government on moving further into a limited and phased reopening of the Memphis area economy.

Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman discussed some details Friday afternoon on Facebook of the plan his and other suburban municipalities are expected to announce next week.

For example, some clothing retailers and churches, Wissman said, could be part of phase one, with businesses like hair salons possibly opening with phase two, in accordance with state guidelines.

The full plan for phase one openings will be released early next week, he said.

“I’ve been involved in county or municipal government since about 2006,” Wissman said. “And I’ve never seen such cooperation from -- whether you want to call it both sides of the aisle -- from people of different backgrounds, different races, different gender, everything,” he said. “For the most part, we all want what’s best. We all want everybody to be safe. We may disagree sometimes on a number here or a couple of dates here and there. But for the most part, it’s been great.”

At the Friday briefing earlier in the day by the local COVID-19 task force, Shelby County Health Department head of epidemiology David Sweat said the pandemic data released will now include recovery rates and numbers on a regular basis.

Of 1,981 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within Shelby County, the recovery numbers show 44%, or 870 people, who had the virus have recovered. The recovery status marks 21 days since a case was confirmed. The 43 deaths from the virus to date are 2.2% of the cases with the remainder still recovering but not considered totally recovered.

The total of 1,981 confirmed cases as of Friday morning includes 50 new cases. For the week, the daily count of new cases has been 35 to 50. That contrasts with one week ago when Shelby County had 223 new cases over a two-day period.

Harris said the number of new cases is reason for “guarded optimism” and the reason for starting the work on returning the livelihoods of Shelby Countians affected by the closings of businesses considered nonessential.

Harris also said when the Tennessee Legislature reconvenes in the summer, he intends to push for more regulation of nursing homes in Tennessee, including a return of liability to owners of the facilities. That lack of that liability in 2015 changes to state nursing home regulations has led to understaffing of nursing homes, according to Harris, who is a former state senator.

Harris said he would also like to see the Legislature again take up a proposal to expand Medicaid coverage in the state, citing the closing of numerous small hospitals in rural communities in recent years.


COVID reopening Lee Harris David Sweat

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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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