Officials urge Memphians to celebrate Christmas in small gatherings amid surging COVID-19 cases

Memphis leaders issue COVID-19 holiday warning

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With hours to go until Christmas Eve, this holiday is unlike any in recent history as COVID-19 cases surge locally and nationally.

Shelby County reported 449 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a smaller number than in days past. But officials have said we are in a surge that may not let up for weeks right in the middle of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Shelby County announces safer-at-home order limiting indoor dining

“Just because you know someone well and you love them doesn’t mean they’re not carrying the virus,” said Dr. Jeff Warren. “No big groups getting together is going to make a difference.”

With Christmas fast approaching, Warren, a Memphis City Council member and a physician on the COVID-19 task force said this is not the year for the large, multi-generational holiday celebration.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland agrees.

“You have to assume almost that everyone out there has the virus, and you have to conduct yourself accordingly,” said Strickland.

Monday the Shelby County Health Department issued a new health directive in light of significant upticks in transmission. The county’s averaged more than 700 new cases of COVID-19 daily over the past two weeks. Officials said hospitals are stretched and the county is in a surge.

New details surrounding leaked health directive proposal

“You have to keep it small this year, and I know it’s a sacrifice. But the doctors tell us, I think one put 70 percent on it, 70 percent of transmissions are going on at home in social settings,” said Strickland.

The directive, effective Saturday, cuts retail and gym capacity to 50% and restaurant capacity to 25%. It also encourages residents to stay home through Jan. 22.

“If we blunt the curve, we can save 500 to 600 lives of our family members and other people that would be dying,” said Warren. “All we’ve got to do is blunt this curve, not overwhelm our hospitals, and wait. This vaccine is coming.”

It’s a word of warning being shared across the Mid-South as the year comes to a close.

Mayor Jim Strickland pleas with public to stay home for holidays

“Most of the transmissions are at home, and we have to take care of business at home,” said Strickland.

The health department has said that those new restrictions that start Saturday are necessary to ultimately reduce the number of deaths from COVID-19 in our community.

Five deaths were reported on Wednesday, and 826 people in Shelby County have died of the virus thus far.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.