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Decision expected Monday on whether Shelby County will move into phase two of Back to Business plan

Health experts will crunch numbers over weekend; want data for two weeks of phase one before making call

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In Shelby County, Monday is the day we’re expected to know whether phase two of the Back to Business plan is a go, or not.

Health experts will spend the weekend crunching different numbers before making the call - a move that could open certain types of businesses like nail salons, and expand capacity in others sometime next week.

“I don't have a significant concern as of today,” Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.

Friday, experts shared growing optimism that Memphis and Shelby County will move to phase two of the gradual reopening plan sometime next week, but also offered caution.

"We will continue to look at the data,” City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said. “It looks promising at this point, but we want to make sure we have a really good feel for the data over 14 full days of Back to Business."

Monday will mark 14 days in phase one and the day the area’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force will make the call whether to begin phase two.

When it’s allowed in Shelby County, nail salons, spas, and tattoo parlors could open with restrictions, gyms and fitness centers could move from 25% to 50% capacity, libraries and attractions could also go to half capacity, and groups of up to 50 people could gather with social distancing.

"That gives use more freedom for people to do more activities, whether you are talking about school settings or educational settings,” McGowen said.

Health experts are considering four factors ahead of the decision: the trend of new COVID-19 cases in a 14-day span, the number of tests available, the number of open hospital beds, and the staffing required for COVID-19 case investigations.

"We will be looking at it collectively through the weekend,” Dr. Haushalter said.

Dr. Haushalter said Friday the task force will especially monitor a recent uptick in ICU beds used in local hospitals.

“That's been a slow, incremental increase over several days. We are not going to attribute that to any one thing specifically - we know that those admissions are COVID related,” Dr. Haushalter said.

Free masks also remain available at all Shelby County Health Department clinics and libraries.

Right now, providers can do more than 8,000 COVID-19 tests a week at sites countywide, but only 60% of that capacity is being used.

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