Countywide reopening plans expected at noon

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 18, 2020 10:43 AM CT | Published: April 27, 2020 10:46 AM CT

Mayors from across Shelby County, including the six suburbs, are scheduled to appear at the noon coronavirus briefing by the local COVID-19 task force, an indication that the governments could present a unified front on the steps to reopening part of the area, including businesses.

To watch the briefing, go to The Daily Memphian’s Live Coronavirus Blog at noon.

The announcement of the daily press briefing lists Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, county Mayor Lee Harris and the mayors of Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown Lakeland and Millington as attending. The release also says it will be an “extended” meeting, probably lasting longer than the normal 30 minutes.

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In addition to the government officials and health department leaders, Dr. Manoj Jain, representing the city of Memphis, Dr. Jon McCullers from UTHSC and Dr. Jeff Warren, a member of the Memphis City Council, are expected to attend.

Indications late last week were that the various government leaders were working on plans to reopen the county along with the individual cities and towns. Most information was based on a three-step plan that would rely on the percentage of coronavirus cases decreasing or leveling. The phases would seem to rely on two weeks between phases; if the positive cases continue to decrease, the second phase of the plan would be enacted.

The first phase of the reopening would begin sometime in early May if the trend of cases doesn’t increase. While some things would return, regulations regarding distancing and taking steps to protect health are expected to be part of any change.

At the closed regular morning meeting of health officials and civic leaders Monday, a participant said the guidelines for reopening live religious services are still in flux.

That first phase appears to allow non-essential businesses to re-open, but with restrictions. Mass gatherings still would be prohibited.

Some non-contact sports, such as golf, would be allowed. Others, such as basketball, would come in the second phase.

One of the major sticking points appears to be nail and hair salons. Several mayors, including Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman in a Facebook Live Q & A last Friday, said the question of salons is among the most discussed.

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.

“I’ve been involved in county or municipal government since about 2006,” Wissman said Friday. “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.”

More details about the plan are expected at the noon briefing.

Staff reporters Abigail Warren and Bill Dries contributed to this story.

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Clay Bailey

Clay Bailey

Clay Bailey, a lifelong Memphian, has worked as a reporter in the city four decades. He concentrated on suburban coverage for the bulk of his career, except for a stint as sports editor of The Daily Memphian when it launched in September 2018. He now is suburban editor and also serves as a freelance sports writer for The Associated Press.

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