Justin Fox Burks
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said he is prepared to tighten virus restrictions on the economy and gatherings but it can be avoided "if everyone will do their part."
Harris said in a Monday tweet that he was asked to return to Phase I of the Back to Business plan, the plan to reopen the economies of Shelby County and its cities. The request comes after days of record-high number of new cases throughout the county.
The request came from Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer. She said in a Monday letter to Harris, Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph, and Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter that she was concerned about the rising numbers and requested a move back to Phase I or a modified Phase II.
"It is no secret that I felt we entered Phase II too soon and was even more concerned about us entering Phase III," Sawyer said in the letter. "It feels the transitions are prompted by the 'Back to Business' model and not the overall capacity of our county to be safe from COVID-19.
"Back to Business should not be at the expense of people’s health. The numbers we saw this weekend, from record new cases to hospitalizations, say to me that we have moved too fast."
The county and its municipalities headed into Phase II of Back to Business on May 18th. A week before that, the county's overall positivity rate was at it lowest, 4.5 percent. That average grew in the four weeks following: 5.6 percent, 6.8 percent, 7.8 percent, to 9.1 percent. For this, and other reasons, county officials have stalled twice on Phase III, the plan that would further reopen the area's economy.
Harris addressed all of this and Sawyer's request in his tweet Monday:
"There is probably no county in Tennessee (or, perhaps, our entire region) that has moved as slowly and as carefully as Memphis and Shelby County, and we are prepared to do even more," Harris said. "If necessary, we are prepared to even return to Phase I.
"However, if everyone will continue to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, we can avoid returning to Phase I. We are all in this together.”
In a later tweet about her request, Sawyer said, "a lawsuit from the people who got COVID-19 because the county didn’t take precaution? That would definitely be reasonable."