Wednesday update: Memphis in May to remain in Tom Lee Park in 2021

Yesterday’s Memphis/Shelby County daily COVID-19 task force press conference was an especially good one, and I want to recap a few points that are made. After that I’ll get on to the news, of which we have a pretty good amount today.

So, are we required to wear masks in public or not?

Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer proposed an ordinance that would require county residents to wear masks when they go out in public until September 1, 2020. Dr. Jeff Warren introduced a similar proposal to city council.

Over the weekend county attorney Marlinee C. Iverson issued an opinion that local governments cannot require the wearing of masks; only the county health department can.

Based on that opinion, Commissioner Sawyer re-worded her proposal as a resolution asking the health department to require citizens to wear masks. That resolution passed in the Monday Commission meeting 8-5.

At yesterday’s press conference, Dr. Alisa Haushalter, county health department director, and Dr. Bruce Randolph, county health officer, were asked if the department would require those living in Memphis and Shelby County to wear masks.

For businesses, Dr. Randolph said, they would be required for employees to wear masks. Enforcement will be in place and people can email the county health department’s COVID-19 address to report violations.

For individuals who are visitors to, or customers of, those businesses, masks are recommended. They are strongly encouraged. The county commission’s resolution will push the health department to do all it can to educate the public on the benefits of wearing a mask.

Dr. Haushalter compared the education campaign to the one years ago about wearing seat belts. Seat belts were not universally adopted overnight, but gradually, more and more people strapped them on, and now, you rarely see anyone not wearing one.

For wearing of masks, Dr. Randolph said the health department prefers to stay with the language of “recommended”/”should” for individuals, and “required”/”must” for businesses. The department believes the public is capable of making good decisions when entering a business and determining if it is safe to be in there. However, the resolution does give the health department the power to move the language to “required”/”must” for individuals as well should less stringent measures not work.


The Shelby County Health Department intends to hire 141 positions, 60 of which will be contact tracers. The need for better contact tracing will be one of the requirements to enter Phase 3, which could be as soon as Monday, June 8, so the department will move aggressively to hire for these positions. They will only be open a week. Interviews will be conducted next week. They hope to have all of these positions filled in June, and as many as possible in early June. Job postings

Dr. Haushalter indicated that a facility has been identified to house the contact tracers, and that she believes a lease will be signed soon – so these positions will be on-site rather than work-from-home.

Who should apply? Dr. Haushalter said she would encourage people of all backgrounds, and the positions are not limited to those with particular training or past experiences. She thought the employees furloughed from ALSAC recently could be good fits for positions. She said these jobs might be good for the retired who want to come work for one or two more years. She said bilingual and multilingual are most definitely encouraged.

Dr. Haushalter also encouraged recent college graduates to apply. For those looking to get a foot in the door for a career in public health, this presents a great opportunity to get some very meaningful real-world experience.

(The next two links are mine, not ones recommended by the health department)

Of course, one of the ways to impress the interviewer is to show that you’ve done your homework, that you’ve taken the time to learn about the position and the knowledge that will be required. Johns Hopkins has a free 5-hour self-paced course on contact tracing that you can take from home. I bet doing that prior to the interviewer would impress the interviewer.

Here’s a review of the Johns Hopkins course. Note that contact tracing is as much about people skills as it is about the science. You have to use your wits to find alternate sources of contact information when the primary phone number doesn’t work. You also have to be a counselor of sorts, helping figure out how they will get through 14 days of quarantine.

What criteria are going to be used to determine when we can enter Phase 3?

Dr. Haushalter said they’d look for five things:

  • Social distancing, which she expects people will find harder to do during the warm months
  • Wearing masks while in public
  • More testing. Currently the city has under-utilized capacity. They have shown to be able to conduct over 2600 tests in a day, yet there was a recent day when not even 700 came in for testing. Haushalter encourages anyone who exhibits any of the symptoms of COVID-19 – fever, dry cough, loss of taste or smell, chills, muscle pain, difficulty breathing – to get tested, even if the symptoms are mild. She encourages essential workers to get tested, even if asymptomatic.
  • Isolating and quarantining those who are diagnosed, and those who have been in close contact with those diagnosed, for 14 days. This is why the contact tracer hires are critical.
  • Protection of vulnerable populations such as seniors and those with chronic illnesses.

When is it recommended that you wear a mask in public?

Haushalter: When in contact with anyone who is not a member of your immediate household.

If you go out for a hike in the woods by yourself, you don’t need a mask on. If you go out to walk your dog, you don’t need one. However, in either of those cases, if you stop to talk to someone, you should put your mask on.

Why did the health department approve the move to Phase 2 when usage of hospital beds was not at a flat or declining rate?

This has been the subject of much exasperation on social media. “THEY MADE UP THEIR OWN RULES AND NOW THEY’RE NOT EVEN FOLLOWING THEM!!!” complained the we-opened-too-soon crowd.

Dr. Haushalter said the hospital bed usage was studied over the weekend. It was found that the rise in ICU bed usage rose to 79% was not attributed to a rise in COVID-19 cases. When asked, “Given the current state, could the system absorb new COVID-19 patients?” the answer was a definite yes.

Health Directive 4

Read Health Directive 4, the document that translates the Phase 2 requirements into law.

How you can view the press conferences live

“Like” the City of Memphis page on Facebook and you should get notifications when the press conferences are about to begin, usually Monday-Friday at noon. If you can’t view them at noon, press conferences are archived so you can watch at a later time. Getting the facts directly from the people who make the decisions is SO much better than reading interpretations of the decisions on social media. It allows you to form your own opinion rather than adopt the opinions of others.

On to the news…

First of all, the big news. It was announced yesterday that Memphis in May will return to Tom Lee Park in 2021, reversing previous reports that Music Fest and BBQ Fest would have to move to another location for a year. Memphis in May received the news that any development on Tom Lee Park will happen outside the grounds until after May 2021, so the festivals can move forward. The dates:

  • Music Fest: April 30-May 2, 2021
  • BBQ Fest: May 12-15, 2021
  • Great American River Run: May 29, 2021

Comeback Coffee at 358 N. Main has been open for about a week now with online ordering. My apologies for not reporting this sooner… for some reason I had not “Liked” their Facebook page!

They are open 8 AM to 3 PM for curbside pickup, with breakfast, pastries, and their drinks available all day, and lunch from 10:30 onward. You can call them at 901-860-4215 or visit their online store to place your order. When you pull up and park outside, call them and they will get you taken care of. At the current time they are not allowing dine-in.

Jeannette wants everyone to know that the Blind Bear’s pool table will be back. It has just been temporarily moved while improvements are made to that part of the restaurant. She posted a poll asking “keep the pool table or not?” and the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping it.

This week New Wing Order will offer 8 oz. and 16 oz. tubs of their Buffalo chicken spread.

The spread goes well on sandwiches or crackers, or just by itself. Catch the New Wing Order food truck tonight at Cordelia’s Market on Mud Island 5-8 PM.

More great food on Mud Island: Garibaldi’s Pizza will deliver to the Island Thursday, May 21 between 5 and 6 PM. They’ll have their family pasta packs, pizzas, salads, and more. Call 901-763-4111 no later than today (Wednesday) to place your order. All orders will be prepaid at the time you call.

Walking Pants Curiosities has some new quarantine-themed hats such as

  • “6 Feet Plz”
  • “Social Distance Yourself”
  • “I’ll Bring the Essentials”
  • “Not Today Corona”
  • “I Am Freaking Essential”
  • “Essential as a Mother”

The Downtown Walgreens now has reusable, washable cloth masks as well as single-use paper ones. They’re above the cigarettes behind the counter. Also I received a tip that early Tuesday morning is the time to go there (they open at 7) if you need wipes.

Get ready for Virtual Art Chat with My Memphis View, coming to you six Wednesdays in a row at 6 PM beginning next Wednesday, May 27. Sponsored by the Downtown Memphis Commission and hosted by Mary Ellen Kelly of My Memphis View Art, each week a tour of a different Memphis gallery will be live-streamed on the Downtown Memphis Instagram page. Learn more

Pringles is introducing a new flavor that tastes like buttered corn on the cob.

Lightclub Memphis is taking a break from its weekly DJ sets on Twitch. You can view all of the 2020 livestreams on YouTube.

Jennifer Oswalt who runs DMC appears on this week’s Daily Memphian Extra Podcast to discuss what’s next in billions of dollars in Downtown development.

From the Memphis Flyer: A $2.5 County Commission allocation for MATA will fund three new projects, one of which will affect Downtown’s entertainment district. Many employees in this district have shifts that end long after regular bus routes stop running; therefore, a demand-response system will be implemented allowing those employees to call in and get a ride home.

Yo Gotti & Friends Birthday Bash 8 at FedExForum has been postponed from its planned date of June 19. All tickets sold will be honored for the rescheduled date.

Elmwood Cemetery will host a Zoom edition of its Death Cafe Sunday, June 7 at 2 PM. Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda. It’s not intended as a grief recovery group, but rather an open discussion of a topic which society in many cases considers taboo to talk about.

Trolls don’t understand social distancing:

Long post today! I’m going to watch today’s COVID-19 task force press conference then get out and enjoy another beautiful day. The forecast is for a high of 75 with north wind at 6 miles an hour and a 10% chance of rain. Can’t beat that! Back tomorrow, or later today if anything big comes up.

Tue update #3: Shelby Co. Health Dept. hiring 141, including 60 contact tracers

This is going to be real quick.

Open jobs

All candidates encouraged to apply regardless of background for the contact tracer positions. Will say more on the blog tomorrow.

There is a free 5-hour Johns Hopkins course on contact tracing. It is not required, but I bet it would impress an interviewer. Read a review from someone who took the course.

Back tomorrow with more details from today’s COVID-19 press conference and other news.

Tue update #2: A look at the coronavirus numbers for today and how they could be interpreted

From the Daily Memphian’s May 19 coronavirus blog:

The Shelby County Health Department reported 116 new cases of coronavirus Tuesday for a total of 3,877 cases during the pandemic. The increase is the largest since April 18.

Shelby County said 2,615 people were tested an increase of 1,927 from the day prior. The number of tests surpasses Shelby County’s goal of 2,400 tests per day. The daily positivity rate Monday was 4.4%.

Bet we see tweets/Facebook posts like:

“2615 people were tested in one day! That is the largest number of tests in one day yet! And it exceeds the health department’s goal of 2400! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING, lengthening Phase 2 to 21 days? WE’RE READY TO FULLY RE-OPEN EVERYTHING NOW!”

“Over a hundred new cases! The most we’ve seen in one day in over a month! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING, re-opening so soon? If we had stayed in quarantine until the end of May, THIS WOULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENED!”

“4.4% postivity rate? Hasn’t the average been around seven, eight percent? WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING, suggesting that wearing masks will make a difference? We’re doing perfectly well without them!”

“4.4% positivity rate? Weren’t we at 2.7% a few days ago? Here comes that surge we’ve all known was on the way! WHAT ARE PEOPLE THINKING, going out in public without a mask on?”

(Extra credit: Add bashing of your least favorite politician, or of Republicans or Democrats in general, to any of the above)

Tuesday update: Restaurants can have bar seating now

This morning I noticed a change in the Back-to-Business sector-specific guidelines concerning Phase 2 of re-opening, which Memphis and Shelby County entered yesterday.

For restaurants:

Same as previous phase, but bar areas may be open for seating so long as social distancing protocols are followed. There should be no standing at the bar.

Although the mayors and health officials loosened the Phase 2 guidelines in that respect (and it is MUCH APPRECIATED), they tightened the guidelines in another. Phase 2 will last a minimum of 21 days rather than the previously-published 14. The reason why, County Mayor Harris explained, is that Phase 3 allows large gatherings of up to 250 people, and the task force felt extra caution needed to be taken before deciding to enter that phase.

I’m not sure if the task force intended this, but the 21-day period offers an additional advantage: It will let us see if new cases where the virus is spread over Memorial Day weekend are a cause for concern. Memorial Day weekend is May 23-25. The earliest the task force could consider moving to Phase 3 would be June 8. The virus has about a 14-day incubation period.

A lot more people offer criticism on social media than praise, and the task force committee got plenty of criticism yesterday on social media. It came from both the “moving way too fast” and “moving way too slow” schools of thought. I want to offer some praise: I think the task force is doing just about as close as PERFECT as they can get, given the available data and the pressures to save both lives and businesses/jobs.

Once again, I will use the analogy that life is like a game of poker, in that you have to make decisions based on an incomplete amount of information. Also, there’s a random factor that can be mitigated to a degree, but never controlled. I’ll make the following two observations that apply to both life and poker:

  1. You can’t sit there and do nothing until you have the perfect starting point; if you do, you’ll miss out on way too many opportunities.
  2. Sometimes you get an undesirable outcome, and all you can do is look back and ask yourself if you made the best possible decision based on the information that was available at the time.

During the extended 21-day Phase 2, the Health Department has plans to hire more than 100 people and create a dedicated pandemic unit. Mayor Harris plans for an increase in testing at 201 Poplar during that time period.

Aldo’s Pizza Pies (Downtown location) is hiring. “Motivated team players in the food industry” are invited to apply. Great company to work for.

Cousin’s Maine Lobster is offering an at-home lobster roll kit. The national HQ announced the kit would be available at all their food trucks, and I assume that includes Memphis.

Buddy Albert Nemenz of the band Almost Famous will be the special guest during this week’s Silky O’ Sullivan’s virtual happy hour today from 5 to 6. Venmo @BuddyAlbert to tip him and to request a song. Here’s a look back at his virtual happy hour from a few weeks ago:

Raymond James is upping the stakes against its 50 N. Front landlord, seeking approval to file a second lawsuit. The original lawsuit, filed two years ago, cited issues with elevators and windows. A federal magistrate recommended that lawsuit for dismissal in February of this year. The magistrate found that at least one of the building’s eight elevators was always working. Wow. One out of eight is not very good. Then again, if that was the minimum specified in the contract, it’s Raymond James’ fault for not requesting a higher minimum.

The DM’s Chris Herrington believe ordinances requiring masks could do more harm than good. Herrington notes that while he sympathizes with the idea, enforcement would be problematic. He also points out that masks have become an unfortunate political symbol, and wearing one can cause total strangers to judge you (I, by the way, experienced this myself Saturday).

I have such mixed feelings about requiring masks. I liken the requirement to wear masks to the law outlawing texting while driving – it’s not about the person affected by the law, it’s about the safety of those in the proximity of that person.

The Daily Memphian will live stream the revised Memphis River Parks Partnership proposal for Tom Lee Park tomorrow, Wednesday, May 20, at 3:30 PM. Quite frankly I’m glad this will give people on social media something to argue about other than COVID-19. The new design will not affect BBQ Fest (September 30 to October 3) or Music Fest (October 16-18) this year but the events will have to be moved to 2021.

Our Yoga Downtown happens tonight at 6. Currently the class remains virtual. It’s free and all-levels. YOGA!

Governor Bill Lee was in the Edge District yesterday, touring the new COVID-19 overflow facility in the former CA building at 495 Union. Ideally the building will never have to be used, but it’s great insurance to have in case of a surge.

There will be a live streaming show of Jhene Aiko at the Orpheum tonight from 8 to 11.

For those who are Civil War history fans, the DM’s Michael Nelson has a piece on the siege of Corinth today.

First United Methodist resumes its burrito ministry today and is looking for volunteers. They plan on making burritos and setting up a hand-washing station at 4, then serving guests at 5 while observing proper distancing and sanitary procedures.

Dylan at the Silly Goose is working on something new… he had me sample a piece of chicken yesterday, tender and juicy and described as “the oyster” of the chicken, cooked in a sauce he made with hot peppers he had on hand. All who tried it agreed the chicken would be tasty on a wood-fired pizza. If the idea turns into something I’ll make sure to post it.

High in the low 70s and a pleasant northwest wind… be sure to get outside today if you have a chance. We probably won’t see another day like this until late September. Back tomorrow with more news, or later today if anything big comes up.

Monday update #2: Phase 2 re-opening begins

The mayors and health department have announced the beginning of Phase 2 of the Back-to-Business Framework for Memphis and Shelby County. The roll into Phase 2 follows 14 days of flat or declining numbers of new coronavirus cases.

  • Spas and tattoo parlors can open at 50% capacity
  • Non-contact sports facilities that have dining rooms can open them at 50% capacity
  • Gyms and libraries can expand from 25% to 50% capacity
  • Purposeful gatherings of less than 50 people now allowed (previous limit 10)

Everything else that was open under Phase 1, stays open under the same guidelines.

A small business owner Downtown posted this and it’s worth a repost:

River City Pedalers, one of the party pedal bike companies, posted that the city won’t allow them to open until Phase 3. The city really needs to be careful with those. Riders could sit every other bike seat to maintain 6 feet of distance, but the trouble is, the bikes make stops at bars so riders can buy shots. That produces scenarios where the bike riders crowd 16 people into a 3- to 4-foot space to order; there is no way the captains of the pedal bikes nor the people who work at the bars could get the riders to maintain space.

The New Wing Order food truck’s schedule for the week includes a stop Downtown, at Cordelia’s Market 5-8 Wednesday.

Video tour of the new overflow facility at 495 Union, the former CA building converted into a COVID-19 hospital:

College football news: COVID-19 athletic department budget cutbacks at Power 5 schools could spell the end of buy games, where a big-name university pays a lesser-known institution to play a game at the big-name team’s stadium, with the smaller school getting an appearance fee well into six figures and in some cases seven. These games make up a huge chunk of smaller schools’ athletic revenue. The most well-known buy game in recent times happened in August 2019, when the Tennessee Vols paid Georgia State almost a million dollars to come to Neyland Stadium and beat them.

Tennessee’s free cloth masks were tested for effectiveness and were found to be nearly as effective as surgical masks.

FiveThirtyEight looks at a real-life situation that illustrates the challenges of the 2020 pandemic: What do you do when you’re a first-time landlord who needs rent money to pay the mortgage, but your tenants are broke?

Back tomorrow with more.

Monday update

There were reports of traffic violations Downtown on Nextdoor Saturday. These included

  • A video of cars doing donuts near Marmalade Lounge near G.E. Patterson and St. Martin
  • A report of a car doing donuts at Vance and Danny Thomas
  • A driver reported nearly being hit head-on as several cars weaved in and out of lanes on G.E. Patterson and ran the light at B.B. King Blvd.

The frustrating thing is, MPD is often so slow to respond that the racers leave the area. Also frustrating is that police are not required to do anything if there is not a victim on the scene who wants to file a report.

FreeWorld has announced there will be a drive-by party to celebrate the 90th birthday of saxophonist Dr. Herman Green Wednesday, May 27 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. It’s a shame it can’t be at the Blues City Band Box as usual, but it’s a way to let Dr. Green that he’s loved and appreciated on his special day.

Taking it to the Streets: Edible Memphis has a look at the effect of “off-premise” beer, wine and liquor sales by restaurants, allowed by an executive order that expires May 29. In the article, managers discuss how alcohol sales have propped up restaurants and allowed them to retain more staff on payroll.

Another prominent Memphis attraction is set to re-open:

Rachel’s Salon and Day Spa re-opens today. They have implemented distancing measures including styling stations that are spaced 8 to 10 feet apart. For customers who are at high risk of COVID-19, they have converted one of their massage rooms into a private styling room.

I’ll probably wait a week or two before trying to make an appointment… let all the ladies who get haven’t had their hair done in two months or longer get in there first.

It looks like two proposed ordinances to require the use of face masks in public, one in the City Council and the other in the County Commission, maybe be dead in the water. Shelby County Attorney Marlinee C. Iverson (hey, I went to college with her!) said that according to the governor’s Executive Order 30, local governments can’t require use of masks – only the health department can.

So, will the health department do so? In Friday’s press conference, there was a question about this. Dr. Haushalter said that while she strongly recommends the wearing of masks, requiring them is perhaps inviting unwanted conflict. Other cities have experienced protests and even threats of violence over mask requirements.

Quarantine cuisine

Last week I decided to venture out and pick up some cuisine from one of my favorite chefs… and since PBR has returned as a factor in my daily spending, I decided Boy-ar-dee would be the chef so I could conserve funds. I made the short walk down the street to Family Dollar.

Blast it all, they were out of spaghetti & meatballs and beef ravioli, my two favorites from that brand. I looked around to see what my other options were. Near the end of the canned food aisle I saw something I had never seen before in my life: Canned boiled peanuts.

Color me intrigued… when I worked in Horn Lake, I’d bought hot boiled peanuts at the gas station, but I didn’t know you could buy peanuts in a can and heat them up at home.

A look at the back of the can confirmed that these peanuts could be heated up in the microwave.

I figured, these would probably not be any good, and I felt guilty for cheating on my friends at The Peanut Shoppe up the street, but curiosity got the best of me and I walked a can up to the register. I figured, for the price of a dollar I wouldn’t mind too much if this turned out to be a failed experiment.

Yesterday I opened the can and dumped the peanuts, in their brine, into a microwave bowl, covered it, and heated it for 1:45. This is what came out:

They were messy to eat, but I have to admit they were tastier than I expected for the price. I can’t believe I’ve never seen brined peanuts in a can before at a grocery store – even in Earle, Arkansas where I worked for two and a half years. Am I the only one who’s missed out on this experience?

Check back…

I’m fairly sure there will be a second post between 12:30 and 1 today. I will be back tomorrow if not then.

Sunday update

Oh, man. Yesterday opened my eyes to something.

The Safer at Home order, or the house arrest as I called it, lasted over 40 days. During that time, basically the only face-to-face human interaction I had was with cashiers. It was not fun, especially the first two weeks, but I got through it.

But… what about the people who life revolves around who’s having the pool party this weekend… when is the next trip to Vegas… which club we’re all going to on Saturday and what outfit I’m wearing and how it’s $20 to get in the VIP area but so-and-so knows the DJ so he’s going to get us on the list… and how such-and-such person and I have a BFFs appointment Friday afternoon to sip champagne and get our nails done… and when are we going back to the beach… and how we all want to try that new sushi place in Germantown… et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

THOSE people had to spend 40-plus days with nothing to do.

I can’t imagine what they did to fill the time. Flipping through the pages of a celebrity gossip magazine is as close as that crowd comes to reading a book. As for watching movies, what’s the point if you can’t tell people who you went to go see the movie with, and what you wore to the theater, and who you met up with after the movie, and where you went after the movie, and what you had to drink?

All right. I’m tired of thinking about it. Let’s get on to the news.

For those of you who are still bored at home and looking for things to do, you can now tour the entire Salvador Dali museum online.

Service industry jobs are hard to come by during a pandemic, but Westy’s announced recently that they are looking to add staff to their team.

The drag racers  treat Downtown as their own personal NASCAR track on Sunday afternoons from about 5 to 7. Perhaps we should all get a to-go drink from one of the nearby restaurants (maintaining proper social distancing while placing our order, of course) and then walk over to Front Street to watch.

Some restaurants are implementing a COVID-19 surcharge to pay for additional costs related to the pandemic. Right now, restaurants have to place every order in a to-go box, and they have to provide plasticware with every order. If you order a drink, they have to pour it in a disposable cup or pouch. All those things are not free for the restaurant to provide. A surcharge of a buck or two is entirely reasonable.

More employees working from home are being asked to install spyware on their laptops and phones. This software can track your keystrokes to prove you’re really in front of the computer. It can record what websites you visit during work hours. It can turn on your webcam and send alerts if you’re away from your computer too long. A phone app can track your location to prove you are really at home. It is perfectly legal for them to do all this, by the way.

What I’m reading this morning: The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the hacker who saved the Internet. This is a story of a hacker with a criminal past who turned good (to use the lingo, he put on the white hat) to save the public from the WannaCry attack. WannaCry cost the public millions of dollars, and even threatened lives since some computers infected were in hospitals.

Did you know that Lansky Bros., Clothier to the King, has a YouTube channel? Of course they promote the goods in their store on there, but recently they have added videos of local musicians who would appreciate your watching their performances and tipping them while the pandemic has put them out of work.

Sunrise Memphis with a little brunch action:

That’s it for this post. Back later today or tomorrow with more.

Thoughts on Phase 2 and Gov. Lee announcement and Saturday news

Most likely we will have a decision on whether to enter Phase 2 of the city’s Back to Business Framework on Monday. Dr. Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department director, said in Friday’s daily COVID-19 press conference that Monday would likely be the day, and Mayor Strickland echoed that notion in his weekly e-newsletter.

What’s different about Phase 2?

  • Close-contact businesses like nail salons and tattoo shops are allowed to re-open, with restrictions of course.
  • Facilities for contact sports can re-open, with restrictions (just assume “with restrictions” here on out)
  • Purposeful groups less than 50 are allowed (it was less than 10 in Phase 1)
  • Gyms and libraries move up to 50% capacity
  • Attractions can open at 50% capacity; some attractions, for instance the zoo, were allowed to open sooner following submission and approval of a plan

Hair salons and barber shops were in the “close-contact businesses” list allowed to open in Phase 2 originally. However, as hair salons and nail salons opened earlier in surrounding counties, pressure from owners forced Shelby County’s COVID-19 task force to move them into Phase 1.

What needs to happen to allow the move into Phase 2?

Dr. Haushalter has stressed all week long in her press conference that there are four main factors:

  • Number of new cases – this number varies with the number of tests, so it’s helpful to look at the percentage of positive tests. This number has been just under 8% for Shelby County, but this week was seen in the 4 to 6.5% range and yesterday was below 3%. This data is considered over a rolling 14-day average, rather than on a per-day basis.
  • Testing capacity – Number of tests has been between 1200 and 1800 many days, and Dr. Haushalter and other health officials say they have the capacity to test even more (their target is 2400 per day). They encourage those even with mild symptoms to get tested. So, things seem to be good regarding this criterion.
  • Hospital capacity – As of yesterday, 79% of ICU beds were in use in the county, which is a bit high. However, Dr. Haushalter said they want to look at the data and determine if the use rate is due to clustered cases, as opposed to community transmission. Also note that hospital capacity increases as of today with the opening of the overflow facility at 495 Union.
  • Public health system capacity – This involves things like ability to get test results quickly, to do contact tracing, and to conduct isolation. These are all getting green lights as of Saturday morning.

A favor to ask of my readers…

… particularly my readers who like to, for lack of a better term, “hang out.”

Mayor Strickland mentioned earlier this week, and city COO Doug McGowen touched on this point again Friday, that citizen complaints regarding Back-to-Business violations would be taken into account when they consider when to move to Phase 2 and what adjustments (any additional tightening or loosening) would need to be done.

Remember grade school, when the teacher stepped out of the classroom for a few minutes, and when she returned, there was that one kid who handed her a list of who had been talking?

Ever wonder what that kid is up to these days?

That kid, now grown up, thinks we entered Phase 1 WAY TOO EARLY and that we should have been quarantined for at least an additional month. That kid is horrified that not only are we re-opening, but we’re already about to enter the second phase.

That kid is going to be out this weekend, taking photos of people congregating together in groups, not observing social distancing, not wearing masks, not taking Back-to-Business seriously, and will then email the photos to the city’s complaint email address.

Let’s ruin that kid’s weekend.

If you hang out with friends this weekend, can you congregate in small groups, rather than large ones?

Can you try the best you can to stay 6 feet away from people who aren’t in your household, and avoid hugs and handshakes for now?

If you go to a restaurant, can you avoid lingering at the bar area – especially if the bar area is visible from the outside?

And I know I’m beating a dead horse with many of you – but would you consider wearing a mask or face covering if you have one? County health officials really, really like to see them. If you won’t do it to help prevent people from getting sick, will you at least do it so they’ll put the basketball hoops back up at city parks?

Gov. Lee’s announcement about restaurants

Around 3 yesterday afternoon, Governor Bill Lee announced his intention to lift all restaurant capacity restrictions in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Beginning May 22, restaurants in those counties will be able to operate at 100% capacity. Also on that date, large attractions in those counties will be allowed to open.

The news caused me to utter the name of a Chinese man.

Ho Lee Fuk.

That is absolutely, completely irresponsible. Most of you have figured out that I lean a little bit more in the direction of re-opening than the average Memphian, but you just can’t take all the controls off. Way too much, way too soon.

I get that Republicans hate government restrictions. Lee and his advisors probably have the mindset that it should be the individual restaurants’ and attractions’ responsibilities to come up with their own policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, rather than the government’s.

The problem is that this sends the public the message, “things are back to normal now.” That will cause a massive surge in coronavirus cases beginning around the fifth of June. Hospitals will be overwhelmed. People will die because they couldn’t get an ICU bed or ventilator.

The good news for us here in Memphis is, Shelby County is not included in the governor’s order. Since we have our own health department, Gov. Lee has given the county autonomy to re-open at its own pace. Hopefully the local COVID-19 task force will hold its ground and adhere to the Back-to-Business Framework.

But look how the task force was pressured to move hair salons into Phase 1. Not only were they being pressured by salon owners, but they were probably pressured by the state not to deviate too much from its directives. Will Strickland, Harris, and Haushalter find themselves under the same pressure again?

On to the news…

I ran into a friend yesterday and he gave me a couple of pieces of Downtown restaurant good news. First of all, the spot at 51 S. Main, most recently DejaVu, will be a New Orleans-style eatery called Beignet. Significant money has been pumped into remodeling that place and they will be open for lunch and dinner.

His restaurant group is also taking over Carolina Watershed, and it’s possible both places will open the same day. It’s hard to estimate an opening date when a pandemic is going on, but he seemed to think around four weeks.

Online ordering is now available at all Huey’s locations. I am so happy they did this. A few days ago I called and tried to place a to-go order, but I was in such a noisy environment that I couldn’t hear my phone. I so much prefer to do my food ordering online. Thanks Huey’s and you’ll see an order for a Texas Toast Burger, medium, fries, ranch instead of ketchup on the Downtown location’s screen soon!

The Flying Saucer has a deal going on right now: Buy a $125 e-gift card for $100. That’ll get you started toward your next plate on the ceiling! Allow an hour or two after purchase for your e-card to be emailed to you.

COVID-19 news you can use: A professor explains how a fart can get through jeans and underwear but a mask can stop the coronavirus

Mike Ceide from WREG reports that the Grizzlies re-opened their practice facilities for voluntary player workouts… wait for it… with restrictions.

Memorial Day weekend is coming up next weekend. Local catering company A Moveable Feast is offering a complete Memorial Day cookout that feeds 4, delivered to your door next Saturday. The meal includes

  • Roasted corn and lima bean salad
  • Hog Wild potato chips
  • BBQ baked beans
  • Prime rib burger
  • All beef hot dog
  • Peach & strawberry crumble over ice cream

Here is a photo of the man suspected to have taken the bike belonging to Bill, co-owner of River Time Market and Deli, about 1:10 PM Thursday. The bike was locked up near Court Square.

The Daily Memphian has a look at what to expect at the Memphis Farmers Market today. Quick summary: Don’t go if you feel sick, bring both cash and credit cards, leave your pet at home, and be prepared to stand outside in rain waiting to get in the Market, which is under a pavilion. The Market is open until 1 PM today.

Memphis Songwriters Series: Virtual Voices returns to the Orpheum’s Facebook page tonight at 7:30. View previous Virtual Voices concerts

There’s a Goth Happy Hour on Twitch tonight from 7 to 9. DJ Alpha Heather will play the tunes.

Time to stand on X’s taped six feet apart on a floor to start off a day that’s all that and a bag of chips. Back tomorrow with more news.

Friday update

Everyone please be on the lookout for this bike! It was locked up outside River Time Market & Deli on Court Square and belongs to Bill, the deli’s 71-year-old co-owner, yesterday afternoon. If you see the bike please call 545-COPS.

My Grizzlies face mask arrived Wednesday!

You can get yours in the Grizzlies Store. I ordered the mask Friday, May 8, and when I placed the order it was set to arrive by May 20. However, the confirmation email said it would arrive today, Friday, May 15, and then Wednesday, May 13 I got a “your order is out for delivery” email.

Choose901 has a list of spots that are open that you can visit this weekend. That’s right, these places are OPEN. They are not Zoom conferences. They are not Facebook Live concerts. They are not activities you can record yourself doing, then post to Instagram to #ShowYouStayedHome. Three of the recommended happenings are located Downtown: Loflin Yard, the Ghost River taproom, and the Memphis Farmers Market.

Did you know 117 Prime has a food truck? It was at Memphis Made Brewing Co. yesterday. I’ll try to keep you informed of future outings for the truck.

Max’s Sports Bar has the info on Saturday’s shrimp and crawfish boil:

Although we will still be closed for sit down this weekend, @glazescrawfish will be cooking up crawfish/shrimp and we’ll be slinging it togo this Saturday. Mudbugs are $10/lb and shrimp for $15 (prices include sides). And dont forget to order your favorite drink(s) from the giant crawfish out front when you get here! Thanks again for your patronage and we hope to see you this weekend!
As always, we are trying to be as efficient as possible in order to get you guys on your way quickly. So please take note of the following –
1. Please comment on our Facebook post to preorder. Cutoff for preorders is 4:00 on Friday. Walk up orders cannot be guaranteed.
2. Preorders will be served from 11:30-1:30. If you are not here by 1:30 your order will not be guaranteed.
3. Normal menu will not be available until 2:00.
4. We will also offer curbside pickup in the alley.

I’m going to go ahead and publish this since I want to get the image of Bill’s bike out. Thanks to those of you who have re-shared the photo on Facebook. Back later today or tomorrow with more.

Thursday update

I’m going to lead off this post with a couple of good reasons to head to South Main this weekend. Bring cash and cards to do a little shopping, because the Memphis Farmers Market is back! Their announcement:

We are excited to announce that we are opening the Memphis Farmers Market. 2020 Season will kick off on Saturday, May 16th, rain or shine! Thank you for your continued support and patience during this challenging time. Everyone on the MFM Team has worked diligently behind the scenes to provide our customers, vendors, volunteers and staff with a safe shopping environment. Please read through the market rules and guidelines.
While a lot has changed over the last few months, our mission to the Memphis community has not changed: to offer healthy and fresh food options while supporting small businesses.

And of course, anytime a public place re-opens, there have to be eleventy million billion restrictions. Here are the Market’s:

After you’re done shopping at MFM, walk a couple of blocks down the street to The Vault. Memphis in May canceled its BBQ festival, but The Vault didn’t cancel theirs:

So #memphisinmay BBQ may be postponed until the fall, but ours isn’t! We are making the best out of this situation by creating our own BBQ Fest. All the pork you can stand: sliders, tacos and more. Come feast on whole hog and satisfy your BBQ craving. And don’t worry, we will have scattered seating both in and outside to ensure there is proper social distancing. Extra sanitation stations will be on hand, too, where we can enjoy but remain safe. Come early because once it’s gone, it’s gone! 🐷

Saturday, May 16 ONLY
11 am – 8 pm (while it lasts, so come early)
Wristbands- 1 for $15, 2 for $25
*Alcohol is NOT included in wristband price.

This is one of these events where I would advise getting there early. The people who get there first will get the tastiest parts of the hog.

Many people have reported vivid and disturbing dreams during the pandemic. I am most definitely among them. I like to journal my dreams and analyze their meaning, and try to figure out what their components represent in real life. So, just for fun, let’s analyze a dream I had last night.

I was driving down the streets of Little Rock, on the way to see my mom. I decided to stop at the convenience store nearest her house (at the corner of Pine Valley and McKinley, for those familiar with my hometown). A store that size would normally have one or two handicapped parking spaces, but at this store, all the spaces in front – five or six – were handicapped only. I had to park way in the back of the lot and walk a long way to the store. When I made my purchase and came back out, I discovered that the car had been stolen.


  • I couldn’t park in front of the store. What does this represent in real life?
  • What did the car represent?
  • (Super bonus question) What is the occupation of the person who stole the car?

The Daily Memphian is back with another outstanding and thorough analysis of whether we are close to Memphis/Shelby County moving into Phase 2 of the Back to Business plan, and the various factors that play into that decision. Since the virus has a 14-day incubation period and we’re only in day 11 of Phase 1, it is still too early to draw conclusions about the effect re-opening had.

Bear Balls, the breaded mozzarella balls that are a popular appetizer at the Blind Bear, have returned to the menu.

Legendary Club Paradise, which in the 1960s hosted some of the all-time blues and soul greats, is getting a makeover. Also, a body shop on the southern part of B.B. King Blvd. is looking for exterior improvements to more closely match recent development that has sprung up nearby.

The Rusty Pieces are back online tonight at 7 with their fourth Thursday night live stream. Jessi announced that they’ll do Prince songs and she’ll sing “Lost on You” for the first time publicly. Their Venmo is @therustypieces, Cashapp is $therustypieces, and PayPal is if you want to show them a little love.

If you can’t make it to the Memphis Farmers Market, Other Foods Kitchen is offering a Memphis Pantry Box offering a number of the locally sourced foods found there. It contains

  • J. Brooks Premium Roasters coffee
  • Tea by My Cup of Tea
  • Jar of honey by Wolf River Honey
  • Tennessee whiskey mini Bundt cake by Mama Pug’s Cakes
  • Country sourdough mini loaf by Lulu’s Bakery (a new Downtown tenant, at Puck Food Hall)
  • Caramel gourmet popcorn by Wolf River Popcorn
  • Bagels by Dave’s Bagels
  • Handmade granola by Amanda Krog
  • Strawberry jam by Comeback Coffee
  • Candied walnuts by Sue’s Walnuts
  • Protein bar squares by Boxer Chef Snacks

This is a question I have been asked from time to time, where to get a gift box that is a taste of Memphis but isn’t BBQ. The box has a list price of $72 but currently it is discounted to $49. Delivery is free and it arrives 3-6 days after purchase.

As your number-one source of news and information about The Edge District, I have yummy news from one of the district’s restaurants, Sabor Caribe:

⚠️Are you planning a special celebration?🥳 We are here to help, from the most casual event at home, to a wonderful office party, or corporate event. Our catering services is now offering  a new and delicious option “The Cuban Sandwich Party”, perfect to share with everyone, (tray size 18ct.) at one affordable price. Contact 901.425.5889 and our team will be glad to take your order now!🤩Don’t forget we’re offering FREE delivery! 🛵.
. ⏰ We are open from Monday to Saturday from 11:30AM to 9PM😉

Former governor Bill Haslam and his wife want to hire 1000 college students to tutor children, hoping to fight the learning loss they endured during the pandemic. I tutored math during the summers as a college student. It allowed me to set my own schedule rather than have a corporation set it for me, and it was the first clue I had that I would be successful as a teacher. Definitely a path I would suggest following for any college student who has an interest.

I watch the city county government/health department officials’ press conference at noon every day to keep up  with where we are in the fight against COVID-19. Yesterday the presenters were Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Official, and Lee Harris, Shelby County Mayor. They reported the latest statistics, took questions from the media, and then were offered the chance to make a closing statement.

Mayor Harris declined, but Dr. Randolph came back up to the podium. He told the public that if there was one thing they could do to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19, it would be to wear a face mask any time you go out among others.

So there we have it. A real medical expert advising to wear a mask.

Not a Twitter “medical expert” ranting, “It AMAZES me that some people are so SELFISH that they won’t even put a PIECE OF CLOTH over their face to avoid KILLING someone!”

Not a Facebook “medical expert” ranting, “People who don’t wear masks obviously DON’T CARE about their own lives OR the lives of others!!!”

I would encourage my readers to follow the advice of the real expert.

I would also encourage the fake experts to shut up.

Back tomorrow.