FAQ – Safer at Home


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (jump to the questions here)

To further combat the spread of COVID-19, the City of Memphis has issued a Safer at Home Order — directing all residents of Memphis to stay inside their homes, and immediately limit all movement outside of their homes beyond what is absolutely necessary to take care of essential needs.

Please reference the below FAQs for all questions regarding the Safer at Home Order.

If you have lost your job or income due to layoffs associated with the COVID-19 crisis, you can find updated information about unemployment at TN.gov.


Residents of Memphis are required to stay inside their homes unless they are engaged in certain “essential activities” or “essential travel”.  On those occasions when you are out of your home for necessary tasks, stay at least six feet away from others.  Businesses defined as essential will be allowed to remain open, but are required to comply with Social Distancing Requirements. 


  • Go to the grocery, convenience or warehouse store
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities
  • Go to medical appointments (check with your doctor or provider first)
  • Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery or drive-thru
  • Care for child, family member, elderly, or pet
  • Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog and be in nature for exercise — just keep at least six feet between you and others. 
  • Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian if necessary
  • Help someone to get necessary supplies
  • Receive deliveries from any business which delivers


  • Go to work unless you are providing essential services as defined by this Order
  • Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need
  • Visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility or other residential care facility, except for limited exceptions as provided on the facility websites.


Is this Order mandatory?

Yes. This is a legally enforceable order. 

Are there curfews attached to this order?
No, there is no curfew under the Mayor’s Order.

Do I need a letter or voucher to travel on city streets and highways?
No, a letter or voucher is not required to travel.  A letter from your employer is not required to travel to and from work.

Why is this happening now?

This Safer at Home Order is being issued now because it is urgent that we slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 in Memphis and Shelby County.

The virus spreads easily, and this Order is also intended to prevent the disease from overwhelming our healthcare system. The goal here is to “flatten the curve” to slow down the spread of the virus and ensure we have adequate health care resources for those who get sick with COVID-19 and those who need emergency medical care for accidents, heart attacks, strokes, and other routine medical conditions.

What is the difference between “Safer at Home” and “social distancing”?

Safer at home is a stricter form of social distancing. There are some differences. Safer at Home means:

  • Stay home (stay unexposed and do not expose others)
  • Only go out for essential services
  • Don’t gather in groups

Social Distancing is the practice of staying at least six feet away from others when you are in public, and not going out in public if you feel sick. 

Whether in public or at home, everyone should regularly wash hands, use hand sanitizer, and disinfect surfaces.

When does the Order go into effect?  How long is it in effect?

The Order goes into effect Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 6 p.m.

The Order is in effect until June 1, 2020.  The City will closely monitor the situation every day to determine if the Executive Order needs to be extended.

What if I’m sick, where can I get tested?

Sites for COVID-19 Testing in Shelby County can be found here. You must call or text ahead.

What are Essential Activities?

Essential Activities are those activities or tasks that are essential to your health and safety, including:

  • Performing work to provide products or services to an Essential Business
  • Outdoor activities, such as walking your dog
  • Performing administrative functions for a business, such as payroll or other tasks needed for the safety of the employees or the building, such as maintenance

What is “Essential Travel”?

Essential travel includes:

  • Any travel related to Essential Activities and Essential Businesses
  • Travel to care for elderly, children, or other persons needing care
  • Travel to and from your home

Can I travel on the Interstates?

Interstates are open and there is no restriction on travel between states.  However, the Order provides that citizens must only travel for essential activities and purposes as outlined in the Order.

Do I need a letter or voucher for “Essential Travel”?

There is no requirement to have or present a letter allowing essential travel. 

What about Government Employees?

This Order does not apply to employees of government agencies working within the course and scope of their public service employment. Employees of the City of Memphis shall follow any current or future directives issued by the Mayor.

What about infrastructure and construction?

Individuals may leave their residences to provide any services or goods or perform any work necessary to the operations, maintenance and manufacturing of essential infrastructure, including without limitation:

  • Construction of commercial and institutional buildings, and residential buildings and housing
  • Airport operations, food supply, concessions, and construction
  • Water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil extraction and refining
  • Roads, highways, public transportation and rail
  • Solid waste collection and removal
  • Flood control and watershed protection
  • Internet and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services)
  • And manufacturing and distribution companies deemed essential to the supply chains of the above industries

Can I apply for a letter or voucher for an essential business exemption?

An Essential Business under the Order may continue its operations.  There is no requirement to apply for an exemption or obtain a letter or voucher to continue operations.

What about churches or places of worship?

Under the Order, churches, synagogues, and all other places of worship may operate for the essential purposes of providing food, shelter and other necessities for individuals in need, such as victims of domestic violence and the homeless. Otherwise, churches, synagogues, and all other places of worship are not allowed to have gatherings of more than 10 people.

Can this Order be changed?

Yes. The Order can and will likely be updated as conditions warrant. Follow updates at www.Covid19.memphistn.gov. We will also share new updates with the media.

What if I need to visit a health care provider?

Do not go to the emergency room unless you have an actual emergency.  If you feel sick, please first call your doctor, a nurse hotline or an urgent care center.

For purposes of this Executive Order, individuals may leave their residence to work for or obtain services at any health care provider, including hospitals, clinics, dentists, mental health providers, physical therapists and chiropractors or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services, manufacturers and suppliers.

Can I still get deliveries?

Yes. The mail and other delivery services to your home can continue to function, as can food delivery services.  Businesses that deliver goods or services directly to residences may continue to operate.  Just keep six feet between you and the person delivering the item. 

Can I use ride share, on demand service, or a taxi?

Yes, but only for essential travel. You should avoid being in a vehicle with multiple people. In circumstances under which such transportation is needed, you must practice social distancing, cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands before and after rides.  

Is MATA public transit still in operation?

All MATA public transit systems remain operational but should only be used for essential travel.  Please check MATA’s website for updates on the bus schedules, www.matatransit.com.

What about expired vehicle tags?

Pursuant to an Executive Order from Governor Lee, vehicle registration tags set to expire from March 12, 2020 and May 18, 2020 will not expire until June 15, 2020. 

Can I still seek non-essential medical care and doctor’s appointments?

Please contact your healthcare provider to determine which visits or procedures you should attend.

Each of the health systems in Memphis are providing guidance about medical care and doctor’s appointments.

What about evictions?

Per Tennessee Supreme Court Order, no judge, clerk, or other court official shall take any action to effectuate an eviction, ejectment, or other displacement from a residence.

Should I stock up on food, necessities like toilet paper and medicines?

No.  Grocery stores will remain open.  You will continue to be able to purchase these items whenever you need them.  Grocery stores, pharmacies, and hardware stores will remain open and are frequently restocking.

Please continue to buy normal quantities of these items on the same schedule you normally do. This will ensure that there is enough for everyone.

Does the Order allow me to have my children in childcare? Will my daycare be shut down?

Daycare and childcare business will remain open, but will prioritize children of parents working in essential services.

Are non-profit organizations allowed to continue operating?

Yes, but only if they provide essential services as described in the order. This would include non-profit operating food pantries, providing housing and services for homeless residents and many other critical services.

Are landlords required to maintain property during this Order?
Yes. Property owners, property management companies and landlords are required to maintain the premises they oversee.

I am currently on vacation outside of Memphis. Does the Order allow me to return home?

Yes. You should maintain social distancing on your way home, and then you will be subject to the limitations in this Order. If you prefer to stay indoors at your current location, you are encouraged to follow this Executive Order while outside of Memphis in order to protect yourself and others.

What happens if I leave Memphis to go on a planned vacation?

The Order requires that you stay in your place of residence. Traveling runs the risk of spreading the virus to other areas and exposing new populations. As explained above, if you live outside of Memphis, you are allowed to travel to and from work if your work is essential business, or if you need to travel to Memphis, for another essential service like medical appointment.

I’m visiting and staying in a hotel, with family/friends, or in a short-term rental. What should I do? Can I go home?

If you have a car and can return home via travel, you may do so if you are following social distancing protocols. If you have a flight or other travel, you should check first with the carrier to see if they are still operating and what protocols they recommend. You are strongly encouraged to shelter in place when you arrive at your destination to avoid infecting anyone else in your home community.

If you need to stay longer, coordinate with your accommodations as best you can.

What do I do about my kids? I have to work.

The Order allows you to take steps necessary to take your children to authorized childcare. Otherwise, you should address childcare needs as you are able given the constraints of the situation.

Can I leave home to exercise?

If you will be both outdoors and not in close contact with people, yes. Otherwise, no, because fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities will be closed.

If my child’s school is providing food or meals, can I leave home to go to the school to pick up the food or meals?


Can I go shopping for things other than food/groceries?

Yes. You can shop for anything that is related to health care, office supplies, hardware supplies, and at businesses listed as essential in the Order. You should minimize unnecessary trips

Can I go to the bank?

Yes, but avoid unnecessary trips.

Can I go out to do laundry or have my laundry done?


I work for an essential infrastructure organization–can I leave home to go to work?

Yes. “Essential Infrastructure” includes, but is not limited to, water, sewer, gas, electrical, roads and highways, construction, public transportation, internet, and telecommunications systems (including the provisions of essential infrastructure for competing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services).

Can I go to a bar/nightclub/theater?

No. Entertainment venues like these are not permitted to be open during this Order.

Can I go to a restaurant, cafe, coffee or tea shop, ice cream shop, or other foodservice location?

Yes, but only to pick-up takeout, curbside or go to a drive through. You cannot dine-in or eat or drink at the facility. Patrons will not be permitted to dine or congregate in restaurants, bars, and similar establishments.

Can I go to the gym or health club?

No. Gyms, health clubs and other exercise facilities (such yoga studios) as are closed.

Can I walk my dog/pet?

Yes. Be sure that you distance yourself at least six feet from other pets and owners.

Can I go to a vet or pet hospital if my pet is sick?

Yes. Please call first to determine if there are any restrictions in place.

What if my plumbing gets stopped up or there is another problem with necessary equipment at my home? How will I access those services?

Call your plumber or building manager. This Order allows service providers like plumbers, electricians, carpenters, exterminators and building managers to keep working and providing their services to the public. To obtain supplies for a DIY solution, you can also visit hardware stores, which are allowed to stay open under this Order.

What if I want to go to work and I’m not sick?

Unless your work includes an essential function, you cannot go to work.  Your employer may require you to work from home. 

If you have additional questions submit a request here: