Shelby County can go back to the bar and stay until midnight at (mostly) packed restaurants.
The new health directive from the Shelby County Health Department loosened some key restriction on restaurants. The new rules go into effect at midnight on Saturday, February 20th.
Here are the key changes in health directive No. 18:
· Permits food and beverages service until midnight.
· Eliminates capacity restrictions for dine-in services but requires that for all indoor/outdoor dining, seating must be separated six feet apart and arranged so that each person seated at one table must be separated six feet from other persons seated at another table.
· Customers may be seated and served food and beverages at a bar as long as there is fixed seating for groups of no more than two people and each set of two seats is separated by six feet (and separated from any other tables by six feet as well).
· Cigar/hookah lounges will have the same restrictions as restaurants. All businesses should prohibit indoor smoking or vaping due to the risk of airborne transmission of the virus. Any indoor smoking that is allowed must comply with Tennessee law on age, time, and place requirements.
The looser restriction come as health officials say the virus situation here is improving and point to several metrics for proof.
"While the COVID-19 virus remains a threat, these activities are deemed allowable now because our community has experienced reduced transmission of the virus for a period of greater than 14 days," reads a statement from the health department. "Viral reproductive rate in Shelby County is 0.8, the lowest since the start of the pandemic. Case numbers have continued to decline since early January. Weekly COVID-19 test positivity rates are the lowest they have been since October."