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Shelby Co. Health Department defends restrictions laid out in latest health directive

Updated: Nov. 23, 2020 at 6:07 PM CST
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SHELBY CO., Tenn. (WMC) - Officials at the Shelby County Health Department defended the latest health directive, issued by their agency Friday, which puts more restrictions on restaurants.

The guidance, effective Monday, cuts restaurant capacity to 50%, mandates a 10 p.m. closing time and restricts table seating to six people with a maximum of four adults.

The Memphis Restaurant Association said it is disappointed in the directive and anticipates putting out a full statement Tuesday.

Some commissioners indicated the restrictions make it nearly impossible for restaurants to be profitable.

“We are hearing from so many hospitality workers that have been unemployed and negatively impacted by the virus, probably more than anybody,” said Mark Billingsley, Shelby County Commissioner.

Haushalter said the health department took the economic issues into consideration. A joint statement from all municipal mayors in Shelby County released Monday afternoon said the group supports the latest directive.

“We understand the economic impact. What we attempted to do was implement the least restrictive measures possible,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department Director. “The option was to close completely or close indoor services. We compromised on that thinking we could take some less-restrictive measures.”

Health department officials also revealed that tens of thousands of Shelby County health care workers could get their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine before Christmas. Leaders revealed the state has earmarked 22,425 doses for Shelby County in mid-December.

The highest priority is hospital staff, followed by first responders and those in long-term care facilities.

“There’s a lot of planning that’s happening, a lot of details on the logistics. But vaccine will be shipped to health departments here, as well as to some of the healthcare systems. As soon as we get the vaccine, we have to start administering it,” said Haushalter.

Haushalter told commissioners she’s concerned about the impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on the case count when family gatherings, though discouraged, are expected.

She said she is also worried about stories coming from other parts of the country with surges, even areas with makeshift hospitals like the Alternate Care Facility on Union. The issue is that people are so sick the facilities are of little use, she said.

“By the time people go to the hospital they oftentimes need very advanced medical and nursing care, and the Alternate Care Site is not designed for that. It’s more primarily for those who would be stable and not need a ventilator or advanced care,” she said.

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