On June 4, a big line-dancing brought dozens out to the North Branch Library on Vollintine. This past Saturday, more than 100 patrons came back to celebrate at the “I Love Music and Museum Jam Session.”
“Since the pandemic hit, we have only been able to sponsor virtual events online to keep everyone safe,” said Johnnie Mosley, a librarian at the North Branch. “We missed our community, and they seem to have missed us just as much.
“Everyone was just happy to get out after being shut in for a year,” he said.
Last Saturday, the last vestiges of restriction were lifted off businesses and other public venues, with an updated health directive taking effect Saturday at midnight.
That means everyday people are enjoying freedom from business restrictions too. Shelby County declared that more than 70 percent of Shelby County residents have immunity status, either by vaccination, or by surviving the virus and carrying COVID-fighting antibodies in their blood.
Larry Springfield, who opened the SugaShack on Beale Street in the early days of the pandemic, was elated things are “beginning to get back to normal.”
“We opened on May 29 of last year, so we started out being restricted by the health mandates,” he said. “We were closing at 10 p.m. on weekdays, and at midnight on the weekends.
“Now, we are open until 1 a.m.,” Springfield said. “It got hard, but we are coming out on the other side. We made it through.”
Springfield, who has worked as a front man for R&B bands, hosts live music on the weekends at SugaShack. Patrons are happy to be able to come in and sit down to enjoy a meal, some drinks, and live entertainment, according to Springfield.
“We survived like other restaurants did,” said Springfield. “We had curbside service where people could pick up their food. When it was allowed, we had limited inside dining. Tables were closed, and seating was limited according to the safety standards required by the health department. We are looking forward to bigger crowds and happier times.”
Back at the North Library, Mosley had the idea of hosting a jam session with live music for the community. The children’s librarian, Debra Dawson, wanted to host a walking museum with outdoor exhibits.
“So I suggested we combine the events and that’s just what we did,” Mosley said. “People enjoyed the music. They danced and sang along with the bands. But they also went around to view the exhibits. Many of them told me they learned some new things from the walking museum.”
There were museum representatives from the Afrikan Heritage and Cultural Center, Dr. Martin Luther King’ s Collection by Memphis historian, Dr. Michael Hollowell, and exhibits from the National Civil Rights Museum.
“Our amazing branch manager, Tamika Parson, approved the proposed event, and it was more successful than we dreamed it would be,” Mosley said. “Now that we are coming out of this thing, we want to have more events that bring our community together there in North Memphis. This is truly a time to celebrate.”
Some are choosing to proceed more slowly, with cautious optimism.
At Red Robin’s Academy of Learning, the plan is to continue to enforce safety measures to keep her students safe.
“Most of the staff has been vaccinated, but we are still wearing masks and continuing social distancing,” said owner Robin Mayweather. “Until the CDC issues a complete release of all restrictions and the health department follows suit, we will take every precaution, just as we have been doing. We take temperatures at the door, of both the child and the parent. The child comes in, and the parent heads the other way.”
Medical facilities and offices have also continued the safety protocols to be extra cautious for their patients.
Dr. Stanley Dowell of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare said it’s good for those who have been vaccinated to be able to go without masks, but in his office, masking and other measures will remain in place.
“We are continuing to check temperatures when patients come in, and we still do the questionnaire for everyone. We are waiting for the all-clear from the CDC,” he said. “Most medical establishments are continuing to adhere to the safety guidelines. That will keep everyone as safe as possible.
“But things are so much better than they were,” he continued. “At the height of infections, we were turning away two or three people a day, sending them to the hospital or the ER, because they were infected and could not come in.
“Now, we hardly have to turn anyone away.”