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The Daily Memphian | The Early Word
The Early Word: Is today the day for tripwires? Plus, dispatches from the swing set

Happy Friday, friends! It’s July 31, so for those of you looking forward to August, it’s almost here. (No, I don’t know why you would look forward to August.) 

Today, the Grizz return — officially — to take on the Portland Trail Blazers this afternoon, and there are eight things Daily Memphian staffers want to see with the NBA’s restart. Especially since this is basically the playoffs



Shelby County Schools teacher Tikeila Rucker (top) offers last rites during a “die-in” protest earlier this week. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

Just think positivity thoughts? You may have noticed that yesterday’s COVID-19 positivity rate was just over 50%, but the head of the Shelby County Health Department cautioned the public not to take too much away from the single day number. The better gauge, local officials say, is the weekly positivity rate — and that was 14% this week, down two percentage points from the last. However, we should see tripwires presented today that will guide the community’s containment measures moving forward. The pediatrician in chief at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital also took on the question of education yesterday, saying districts and parents need to make the best decisions for their circumstances, though “both choices may be bad right now.” (Truer words, right?) And fall high school contact sports (read: football, girls soccer) may be a no-go here, despite the governor’s recent executive order. The Health Department is awaiting text of the full order to determine their position.

The U of M has joined the meeting: When fall classes start Aug. 17 at the University of Memphis, they will now be mostly online. In-person classes could resume after September, but university leaders plan to reassess then based on current COVID-19 data. Dorms are a different story


Memphis police recruits do two hours of physical training last October. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)

Help wanted: After an opinion piece earlier this week from City of Memphis CHRO Alex Smith, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration is officially pushing for a police complement of 2,800 officers — about 400 to 500 more than the current goal. The change comes as the City Council is close to a vote on the referendum that could allow the administration to hire public safety employees who live outside the city limits.




After more than 20 years as a pivotal figure in Memphis’ urban radio market, Devin Steel was let go from iHeart Media recently. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

When Devin Butler was at the University of Tennessee at Martin and playing football, he’d sometimes sneak out after curfew to DJ parties in town. And he realized then he wanted to find a way to make the job permanent. So, shortly after college and back in Memphis (and by then known as Devin Steel), he was hired at Hot 107 .1 FM; for the next 20 years, he was a fixture in Memphis radio. These days, he’s at a bit of a crossroads but still feels he has a lot of radio left in him.




Kang Sung-hoon tees off from the eighth hole during the first day of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis Thursday July 30, 2020. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Swing set: You may not be able to be there in person, but we’ve got early and often updates from this year’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. So far, the defending tournament champion Brooks Koepka is leading the pack, making seven birdies. 

Bar none: Local bars saw their hopes dashed yesterday, after a second federal judge said he wouldn’t grant them a temporary restraining order against the Health Department. Both judges recognized the profound impact the Health Department’s directive has had on the limited-service restaurants included in the order, with one writing in his ruling that “legality must prevail over fairness.” But, at least they recognize it is unfair.


Steve Montgomery, seen here when he retired from Idlewild Presbyterian Church in May 2019, is in critical condition at Regional One. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

Idlewild pastor injured: A beloved former pastor was in critical condition last night after being hit by a car Tuesday while riding his bike. Steve Montgomery, senior pastor at Idlewild Presbyterian Church until about a year ago, was hit near Perkins Road and Sam Cooper Boulevard. A retired Navy medic witnessed the accident and administered CPR at the scene, but a lifelong friend says Montgomery is fighting for his life.

Modernization delay: FedEx is “tightening the belt a little bit” and deferring about $300 million of work from the $1.5 billion modernization of the Memphis hub. The scope of the project, however, remains the same and includes replacing aging infrastructure (some of it dating back to WWII). It will just be completed about three years later. The change comes as the company tries to cope with COVID-19 and improve its cash flow.



Remember how we said that the golf tournament is a good way to showcase our city for the world? Well, if Bryson DeChambeau has anything to say about it, we’re going to get a reputation for fire ants


I think we’ll end there for now. Have a great, ant-free weekend and we’ll see you Monday.