Weekly Update: Back-to-Business


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Over the last several weeks, most of the information we’ve been sharing with you has been serious and not always uplifting news. Today is different. Today, I want to share some things to help remind you that even though things are difficult now, there is still some good news out there.

Memphis 3.0: This past Sunday night, it was announced that our Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan was honored by the American Planning Association as the nation’s best for 2020.

The nation’s best!

The announcement was originally planned for the national planning conference in Houston, TX, but was made Sunday evening during a Facebook Live awards announcement.

I want to thank John Zeanah, Ashley Cash, and the entire staff from the Division of Planning and Development who over many months met with over 15,000 Memphians at more than 400 public meetings to craft the nation’s best comprehensive plan. Thank you, and we’re very proud of the work you have done!

Back-to-Business: We announced yesterday that Phase 1 of our Back-to-Business plan will go into effect on Monday, May 4th, and we issued a new executive order today that will guide us as we move forward. To see the full text of the executive order, go here.

Since the beginning, our approach has been one that is based on expert medical advice and data. This is no different. Reopening our city and getting our economy moving again is vitally important, but we must get back to business the right way.

While we must remain vigilant about adhering to social distancing guidelines and hygiene practices, we felt it was time to safely start introducing measures that alleviate some burdens on the economy — while also balancing the need to protect our citizens. A phased approach, informed by data and constantly monitored and adjusted, will be used to get us safely back-to-business. The Safer at Home Order is still in effect, and this phased-in approach is simply a part of it.

Now, I’ll quickly go through some Phase 1 examples of the Back-to-Business Framework. This is not an exhaustive list.

  1. Healthcare—elective surgeries will be allowed.
  2. Restaurants— must maintain only 50% capacity with social distance seating between tables. No communal items. They must have paper menus, and employees must wear masks.
  3. Non-essential retail stores—must maintain only 50% capacity, and employees must wear masks.
  4. Libraries—must maintain 25% capacity while also adhering to social distancing guidelines, and employees  must wear masks.

To see in detail more information on the phases and which business are included in each phase, visit our COVID-19.memphistn.gov page. We have the full framework laid out with all the key indicators and information used to make our decisions. If you have questions about where your Memphis organization fits in this framework, please email backtobusiness@memphistn.gov.

As we move forward, I want to stress that our approach will be data-driven and not date driven. And, we will not advance from one phase to the next until all the data points are telling us it is safe to do so.

A word from Dr. Jon McCullers:
Dr. McCullers serves as Dunavant Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics
Senior Executive Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs
Chief Operating Officer
College of Medicine, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Pediatrician-in-Chief, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital

Starting roughly a week after Mayor Strickland’s Safer at Home Executive Order took effect, we have seen a stable rate of new cases per day between 60 and 70. If we look over the last four weeks, that has been 66 new cases per day on average. We do see variations in the data when looking at daily changes; we test more on Fridays and Saturdays and less on Sunday which have caused some highs and lows (weather also impacts the community testing), but the trend is clear – the Safer at Home Order has tamped down community transmission such that our rate of new cases is now stable.

The trend in hospitalizations, ICU utilization, and ventilator utilization has clearly been downward from its peak in early April (see graph attached). There is variation from the PUIs and day-to-day in bed utilization, but we had several cases in early April. We have much fewer now, and capacity is good at present. As we move forward, this is one measure I am most interested in watching for upward trends.

beds chart

Additionally, I believe testing capacity in the community is continuing to expand and to reach more areas of the community. I feel very comfortable that we have sufficient capacity in the community at present by two measures:

  1. We are only utilizing about 45% of our capacity at present, and
  2. The positivity rate has been around 5% over the last week or so when you exclude the targeted testing in   jails/nursing homes. My target for community testing capacity is to stay around a 4% mark or lower,       because that is where successful countries have fallen on the scale.

Overall, I feel like we have a stable rate of new cases, believe we have a stable rate of new cases, have seen a decline in utilization of hospital beds and are now in a steady state with day to day variation in bed utilization. We have sufficient capacity in the hospitals, in our testing capacity, and public health areas to justify relaxing some restrictions at this time. Throughout the reopening, we will continue to monitor the data as it comes to us.

Mayor’s Meal Challenge: Over the last two weeks, I’ve been asking everyone to participate in our Mayor’s Meal Challenge, and it’s been great. People from all over the community are stepping up and supporting our local restaurants, while at the same time, helping to feed members of our community through the Mid-South Food Bank.

We still have matching funds ready to be contributed to the Mid-South Food Bank, so keep your pictures coming!

A quick reminder on how to participate:

  • Pick up a “to-go” order from local restaurants
  • Post your photos of the food on social media and
  • Tag the City of Memphis or my Facebook page @CityofMemphis or @MayorMemphis and Twitter @CityofMemphis or @MayorMemphis and the restaurant’s page
  • Include the Hashtags #MayorsMealChallenge and #saferathome
  • $25 will be donated to the Mid-South Food Bank for each photo

If you would like to donate to the food bank visit www.midsouthfoodbank.org/donate. Under the “My Donation is for” tab, select the Mayor’s Meal Challenge.

Religious services: The Governor announced yesterday by Executive order that places of worship will be able to open back up and offer services to their members. For his guidance, go here.

That being said—and I’m talking directly to our faith leaders right now—please, continue to offer virtual instead of in-person services.

I know how difficult this is, and I know if feels wrong not to have your members sitting in the pews directly in front of you. But I’m asking, please do not open back up to full services just yet. We’re in the very early stages of opening back up, and we do not want to erase all the progress we have made fighting the spread of the virus.

We will get through this, but we must continue to socially distance from others and avoid large gatherings.

Doing good in 38126: I wanted to give a quick word of thanks to the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM) for coordinating a 38126 COVID-19 Response Project event providing 500 families who live in the 38126-zip code with food and other direct resources. The residents also received packets of information on the COVID-19 virus, testing locations, financial literacy, domestic violence, health and wellness, and employment opportunities. For more information on WFGM and ways you can help, visit https://www.wfgm.org/.


Mayor's signature