Health department will keep close watch on Shelby County reopening

Health department will keep close watch on Shelby County reopening
Memphis/Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force meeting April 13

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - Local leaders say that science and data will determine when businesses in Shelby County reopen, and the health department will play a critical part.

“Since the beginning, when we began this journey, our approach has been one that is based on expert medical advice and data and this is no different,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

Memphis and Shelby County leaders unveiled a framework of what a phased reopening of the economy would look like on Monday.

But they didn’t announce a specific date, saying that all depends on the data.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter says certain things must happen to get to Phase One.

“Key criteria for when we open up to Phase One does have to be a stabilization or a downward trend of new cases day to day for a 14-day period,” said Haushalter.

Fourteen days is how long it takes for health officials to determine if there’s an ongoing transmission of COVID-19.

Haushalter says the health department will also look at ICU bed availability, admissions and hospital staffing.

She says the capacity to test, isolate and quarantine will also play a crucial role in determining if it’s safe for businesses to reopen.

But she says even after that happens and businesses start to reopen, county health officials will keep a close eye.

“Keep in mind that we may not see a spike until after 14 days, “ said Haushalter. “We’re going to have to watch and be vigilant really for weeks to come."

And if cases ever start to trend back up, she says restrictions will return.

"From a public health perspective, if we see that increase occurring, we would make recommendations to the elected officials to actually begin to sort of close that faucet back off again,” said Haushalter.

The health department says its primary role once businesses reopen is to educate business owners on ways they can enforce social distancing inside their own establishments.

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