9/29 COVID-19 task force press conference recap

County Mayor Harris led off with updates about two programs to help businesses.

30 bars (limited-service restaurants) have applied for grants under the Share the Tab program and will receive the full amount of $10,000. There are still about 12 bars left and they are encouraged to apply as well.

The Beautiful Comeback program previously was available only to owners of beauty, barber, and nail salon businesses. It will now be expanded to all licensed cosmetologists, barbers, and stylists. Individuals will be eligible for a $500 grant, and business owners a $2000 grant, and money is still available for both.

Go to covi19.shelbycountytn.gov to apply for these grants. They are funded by the county’s portion of the federal CARES Act money.

Health Department Director Dr. Haushalter said that the overall trends point in a good direction. As expected, we did see a slight increase in cases after Labor Day but that has since trended back down. R, the reproduction rate, is back under 1. Answering a followup question, Dr. H said there could be a surge in March 2021 requiring more than 300 hospitalizations, but that is small compared to projections made earlier this year. She also noted that we have the opportunity to further depress that anticipated surge via our precautions.

Dr. H noted the following key focus areas:

  1. Communications: Outreach to communities where not enough people are going for testing, or where there is increased transmission
  2. Containment: Quickly identifying new cases, getting them isolated, contact tracing, getting contacts quarantined so as to limit spread from each identified case
  3. Enforcement: This weekend the health department received 9 complaints of facilities not adherent to the health directive – people not masking, not social distancing, or restaurants staying open beyond the mandated closing time of 10 PM. 2 of those facilities had been reported previously, 1 multiple times. Dr. H stressed that the health department was partnering with the sheriff’s office, municipalities, and the Alcoholic Beverage Commission on enforcement. Violators face not only closure of their businesses, but revocation of their liquor licenses.

Dr. H does anticipate Tennessee receiving part of a national shipment of testing kits, some of which will go to Shelby County. These will be particularly used for getting kids back to school. She stressed that limited testing is no longer an issue and there is now plenty of access.

Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said efforts have been made to address crowding at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center, and these appear successful. He urged citizens who have to appear in court to show up at the date and time outlined, get their business done, and leave. Don’t just hang around. (That’s a thing?)

Dr. Randolph reminded those in charge of early voting locations that they must also adhere to the safety guidelines in the health directive.

Dr. Randolph stressed that despite the recent positive trend, the measures to fight COVID will remain in place for a while. Don’t think because the trends are better that we can all just revert to the way things were pre-pandemic.

Dr. Randolph anticipates that if things continue to improve, there could be changes to policies regarding attendance at football games. Asked about the flu, his hope is that masking, hand washing, and social distance will slow its spread as well as that of COVID. The flip side of that is that cold weather will keep people indoors more often, increasing the risk of spread of both illnesses.

Haushalter said starting next week, the task force will reduce its meetings to once per week, and therefore the press conference will be Tuesdays only starting next week.