Municipalities, health department issuing Safer at Home Orders

By Updated: March 23, 2020 10:18 PM CT | Published: March 23, 2020 6:49 PM CT

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Shelby County and its six suburban municipalities are issuing Safer at Home orders to mirror the action taken by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, County Mayor Lee Harris said Monday, March 23.

The orders become effective at 6 p.m. Tuesday, same as the Memphis order.

Strickland issues Stay-at-Home order effective Tuesday evening

The action came in response to a recommendation from the Shelby County Health Department, Harris said. He noted  municipalities are “united” in their mirroring orders and aim to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and encourage social distancing. 

“The mayors of our various communities are interested in unified action,” Harris said. “That’s why we can expect them to present similar actions in support of the city of Memphis’ (Safer at Home) order.”

The orders ask individuals limit leaving their homes beyond what is necessary. Only essential travel is allowed, and mass gatherings of more than 10 people are banned unless they are living in the same households.

Cities may close non-essential businesses but people may continue to work from home, the various orders state. Essential businesses include, but are not limited to, health care, food services and grocers, news media, insurance businesses, gas stations, hardware stores, banks, post office, laundromats and electricians, plumbers and janitorial services. 

The mayor of each city has the authority to determine business as “essential” if it contributes to the health and safety of the city.

“We have found, through all our various discussions, the only way to get the message out is to be extremely aggressive,” Harris said.

Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Memphis and Millington police departments will enforce the regulations in their respective cities. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office will enforce it in Arlington, Lakeland and unincorporated parts of the county. 

Previously, non-compliance issues were remedied in court.

“We currently believe that is not the case anymore,” Harris said. “We will be able to enforce it without even going to court, per the latest changes to the (regulations) and state law by the governor per his last executive order.”

Harris said first offenders might be asked to be comply but there is a “stronger” set of options if people do not follow the order.

The mayor was aware the order will negatively impact businesses across Shelby County.

“I think this is a major disruption,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it. The coronavirus is a major disruption to our way of life, and we can expect it could be a pretty long-lasting effect on our way of life. … At the end of the day, the number one goal is to try as best we can to put people in a position to stay safe.”

Harris said each of the mayors will issue an order for their city, and he will issue one for the unincorporated area.

Harris said the orders will not specify end dates, but they can be renewed every seven days.

Collierville and Germantown’s orders are in effect until rescinded, according to the mayors’ signed documents.

“We can expect an all-encompassing order from our Shelby County Health Department, which also mirrors the actions of the various municipal mayors,” Harris said.

The health department’s order stays in effect as long as conditions are present and does not set days.

Harris said he is working with neighboring counties to take “unified action” and “reduce and mitigate spread.”

Harris said if Gov. Bill Lee were to take statewide action on a state-at-home order, he would support it.

“Everybody has to take their own process,” he said. “I’m sure Gov. Lee is undertaking a process and he is listening to a lot of feedback. It’s both important to take action and get it right.”

Harris said everyone knows someone who has been affected by the coronavirus whether they have been diagnosed, quarantined or lost their job.

“The only way we’re going to get out of this moment is if we don’t panic and we all work collectively in order to reduce spread,” Harris said. “Sometimes it is going to require us all to take some real tough disruptive actions. We are committed to going along this course to reduce spread.”

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said the department is seeing “transmission between the workplace.”

“”It is critical that individuals do not go to work if they’re ill,” she said. “(The executive orders) really encourages only essential employees to be at work, but even those employees shouldn’t if they have any signs and symptoms of illness.”

The state reports 84 people in the county that have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Four of those people are not Shelby County residents, Haushalter said, and most have been treated at home. The county has 103 people under quarantine. The county hopes to report age groups by the end of the week.

Haushalter said the county hopes to see its peak in the next two to four weeks, but she was not sure how warmer weather would impact it.

“You can look to other countries … by enacting a policy to promote social distancing, it does have an impact,” she said. “We anticipate it will have a positive impact.”

The health department will look at what it predicts would have happened if these measures were not in place as compared to what happens. Haushalter said cases double every 5 to 7 days, and the department hopes to reduce that number.

“It’s based on the number of people who are reported positive, and that’s based on the people who are symptomatic,” Haushalter said.

Testing is “targeted” at this time, she said. The county performs “intense” contact investigation, which shows the disease is being transmitted within the community, Haushalter added.

Numbers will rise as testing becomes more available, she said. But she repeated those needing testing received it.

“It’s really time to take aggressive action to stop (ongoing) transmission,” she said. 

Haushalter said some people diagnosed within Shelby County have recovered and were cleared to return to their normal activities. However, she could not provide a specific number. Those diagnosed can usually return  to activities once fever free for three days.


Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris Arlington Bartlett Collierville Germantown City of Lakeland millington

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren  is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.

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