MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department issued a new health directive late Friday, again limiting bars and restaurants to 50-percent occupancy and ordering them to close by 10 p.m.
The directive also requires customers to wear masks at all times except when actually eating food or drinking a beverage. and limits groups dining together to six people with no more than four adults.
Health Directive No. 15 also “strongly encourages” schools to suspend school-related, close-contact sports. It allows gyms to remain open but requires masks or facial coverings for all employees and patrons except when swimming or in the shower.
The directive also says the Shelby County Government expects to be able to provide financial support of at least $5,000 for businesses that face closure of at least 30 days related to the directive. More information is forthcoming.
The president of the Memphis Restaurant Association told WMC Action News 5 he was briefed by the Shelby County Health Department Friday afternoon.
“I’m disappointed,” said MRA President Ernie Mellor. “I understand where the health department is coming from. I’m fearful for myself and all my compadres that are in our industry. I feel this will have an impact certainly on our amount of income we can generate. But it’s going to have an impact on businesses staying alive.”
Health department officials have said for days they would consider additional restrictions, citing COVID-19 cases increases of roughly 450 a day over the past seven days.
Diners in Cooper Young said the shared sacrifices by the establishments aren’t going unnoticed.
“I love coming out to the neighborhood places and the small restaurants. And I hate that they are under such pressure. I just want them to be successful, because we want to see them here six months from now,” said Jess Blumenfield.
“I think we need to do what we have to do to be safe,” said Connie Donaldson.
Health department officials have said the tightened restrictions will need to be in place for two incubation periods of the virus, at least 28 days, to make an impact.
Mellor said the increased spread of the virus and the added restrictions put restaurants in an unwinnable situation.
“Now you’re cutting more back and people are more afraid than they were. And now you are staying open and praying people will come in and purchase from you or dine with you, or take home from you,” said Mellor.