Toilet tissue - an item that has been uncomfortably in scarce supply - showed back on this Kroger Store's shelves, at least for a while, this week. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

Shelby County Health Department officials have determined that it’s safe to move to Phase III of the Back to Business Plan.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter has said that after checking the data from the analysis of a spike referenced on Tuesday (an alarming 192 new COVID-19 cases) it has been deemed safe to proceed to Phase III on Monday.

As of Friday morning, there were 6,443 reported cases in Shelby County, including 138 deaths.

Conditions of moving to Phase III, the last phase, involve wearing masks in all public spaces and maintaining social distancing standards. It represents a full reopening of businesses and discussions about how and when schools can safely reopen.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter

Haushalter said although there were 100 new cases from Thursday, Health officials say the number is acceptable.

“This is a marathon,” she said. “We are out of the sprint stage. There may be a few spikes along the way, but we will not be alarmed.”

Health officials said the comfort level for new cases is 100-130 a day. Data from the new cases will continue to be monitored for new clusters and developing hot spots.

Doug McGowan, chief operating officer for the City of Memphis, said masking in public should be treated as mandatory.

McGowan also said Riverside drive would open for traffic Monday through Friday during business hours and closed on the weekend so people could enjoy the riverfront.

Thorough hand-washing and frequent use of hand sanitizer both at home and in the workplace should continue to be apart of everyone’s daily routine. In this last phase, fewer testing locations for the virus will be maintained at the same level as in prior phases.

Shelby County has a recovery rate of 76 percent. The demographic breakdown of cases are as follows: 59 percent African American; 25 percent Hispanic or Latino; 18 percent White, and the remainder Asian, mixed race, or classified as other.

Deaths from the virus in Shelby County are 66 percent African American, 31 percent White, and the remaining 3 percent other.

Officials said 430 cases were pediatric, and of those cases, over half where African-American, 35 percent were Hispanic or Latino, and 12 percent White.

The Shelby County Health Department and their partners will resume distributing masks that initially had raised safety concerns. A total of 511,000 masks were sent to Shelby County by the state; 350,000 have been distributed.