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Health Officials: Beware the Star-Spangled Coronavirus

Several restaurants have announced temporarily closings due to infections among employees.
Katie Riordan / WKNO File
Several restaurants have announced temporarily closings due to infections among employees.

 

Several restaurants have announced temporarily closings due to infections among employees.
Credit Katie Riordan / WKNO File
Several restaurants have announced temporarily closings due to infections among employees.

Listen to an audio version of the story.

As Independence Day weekend arrives, local COVID-19 infections are hitting record numbers, prompting local officials to ramp up pleas for people to celebrate with social distance.

“Have the grit to wear a mask,” said City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen, who at Thursday’s COVID briefing, took a patriotic tone in light of the upcoming holiday. “Let’s grind this thing out in small groups—not large groups—so that when we get past this we can come together in celebration like we’ve done so many times before when we’ve conquered a challenge.”

The number of local COVID infections continues to climb with between nearly 300 and 400 new cases in recent days. Hospitalizations related to the virus are also at an all-time high, but facilities still have beds available. 

Several area restaurantsannounced this week that they will temporarily closeafter employees tested positive. Shelby County has paused future reopening plans, but has so far resisted reshuttering some establishments as ishappening in Nashvilleandother parts of the country.  

Local officials say they are considering some new targeted restrictions, but have not revealed any specifics. A mandate requiring residents towear masks in public spaceswent into effect last week.  At Thursday’s briefing, McGowen defended the timing and tempo of Shelby County’s reopening plan.

“You can always Monday morning quarterback that, but I would suggest that we have a comprehensive plan, [and] we were conservative with it,” he said.  

A surging number of cases statewide are creating reporting delays for the Health Department, which officials say is slowing their ability to quickly quarantine those who have come in close contact with a COVID-positive person.

Copyright 2020 WKNO

Katie joined the WKNO team in 2019. She's always eager to hear your story ideas. You can email her at kriordan@wkno.org