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Shelby County commissioner asks health department to move back to phase one of local reopening

Tami Sawyer's email request cited spike in recent new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations in Shelby County.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Monday, with certain COVID-19 data trends surging locally, one Shelby County commissioner requested some restrictions returned, with a return to phase one of the area's 'Back to Business' reopening.

Commissioner Tami Sawyer made that request in an email, after new COVID-19 cases in Shelby County jumped more than 40% compared to the previous 14-day period, and local COVID-19 hospitalizations jumped 27% in the last month.

Sawyer wrote in part: “the numbers we saw this weekend - from record new cases to hospitalizations - say to me that we have moved too fast.”

A local health expert - Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital - responded, "that question is so difficult because we know that there's pain and difficulty on either side of the equation."

If Shelby County returned to phase one, nail salons, tattoo parlors, spas would again have to close, libraries & gyms/fitness centers would go from 50% to 25% capacity and allowed groups would drop from 50 to 10 people with social distancing.

Contact sports and recreation facilities would again close, along with attractions and museums.

"There's pain with people who can't run their businesses, can't go to work. There's isolation, there's an increase in a social difficulty during that time frame," Dr. Threlkeld said.

Dr. Threlkeld said a return to phase one could be necessary, if people aren’t wearing masks enough in public or staying apart.

"If the cases continue to go up and we have continued problems we are not able to control, that would be something they certainly would have to consider. I hope we will have enough data to be able to consider it in a little bit more specific fashion and not have necessarily go back to a complete return to phase one," Dr. Threlkeld said.

Monday afternoon, in response to Sawyer's email, Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said she'll address that issue at a scheduled news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Shelby County health experts allowed for phase two May 18th, but held off on moving to phase three earlier this month.

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