MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Friday the city is facing an unprecedented threat with respect to COVID-19 and warned the worst is likely yet to come.
“We have to, as a community, slow down the virus,” Strickland said in a news conference Friday morning. “We have power in our hands to keep down and slow the virus.”
COVID-19 is taking hold on Shelby County and now being community spread. There are 30 confirmed cases in the county as of Friday afternoon, one of which Mayor Strickland confirmed is an MPD employee. The police department declined to give specifics on the employee citing federal health privacy laws.
“They’ve been reported to the health department,” said Strickland. “The health department is going through their contact list.”
An order by Strickland that went into effect at midnight mandated the closure of restaurant dining rooms along with gyms and workout facilities. Restaurants are allowed to stay open and offer take out, but some said it isn’t enough.
The historic Four Way Grill in Soulsville was shuttered Friday, though. Owner Patrice Bates Thompson told WMC Action News 5 by phone that carry-out only wasn’t feasible.
“We know it will at least be two or three weeks, likely will be longer. That’s hard on everybody,” said Ernie Mellor, president of the Memphis Restaurant Association, which includes hundreds of area restaurants.
Mellor runs a BBQ and catering business and let two dozen of his employees go Monday. He said other restaurant owners in the city are in the same boat. Mellor kept a shoestring staff to prep re-heatable orders to try and stay operational.
“If my boat sinks here, then nobody has anything to swim back to. So my goal is to keep running as long as we can and not let the boat implode, so we can rehire folks in the end,” he said.
Strickland’s order left out places like hair and nail salons, but the mayor said they could still be impacted in the coming days.
“There’s a lot of establishments that were not in that order, and we’re going to take it on a day to day basis based on recommendations of the medical experts,” said Strickland.
Strickland’s also asking for all in person worship services this weekend to be postponed. The mayor said he reached out to 300 religious leaders before coming to that decision.
Graceland was open Friday but a statement released Friday afternoon said the tourist attraction would close from March 21 through April 3 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.