Coronavirus daily blog: Avoid crowds of 50, CDC says

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 30, 2020 10:48 AM CT | Published: March 15, 2020 12:38 PM CT

Editor’s note: Due to the serious public health implications associated with COVID-19, The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed.

Confirmed cases
Shelby County

Here’s the latest from Memphis and Shelby County, below, when it comes to dealing with the novel coronavirus. To view full coverage, check out The Daily Memphian’s dispatches from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

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March 15, 2020

CDC sets mass gathering guidelines

7:41 PM CT, March 15

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines Sunday advising against in-person gatherings of 50 or more people for eight weeks.

Examples provided by the CDC included festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events and weddings. The organization asked planned events either be postponed or rescheduled.

The CDC said this advice is not for day-to-day schedules for organizations like schools or businesses.

The recommendation is made so the virus is not introduced into new communities and to slow the spread.


Fed slashes rates, eases bank rules

5:50 PM CT, March 15

The Federal Reserve took emergency action Sunday, cutting its benchmark interest rate to near zero and saying it would buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds in the coming months.

In its statement, the Federal Open Market Committee said, “The effects of the coronavirus will weigh on economic activity in the near term and pose risks to the economic outlook.”

It cut its key funds rate by a full percentage point — to a range between zero and 0.25% — and said it would keep it there until it feels confident the economy can survive a sudden near-shutdown of economic activity in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

The central bank will buy $500 billion of Treasury securities and $200 billion of mortgage-backed securities to smooth over market disruptions that have made it hard for banks and large investors to sell Treasuries, and to keep longer-term borrowing rates down.

Disruptions in the Treasury market sent the yield on the 10-year Treasury rising last week, threatening to push borrowing costs for mortgages and credit cards higher.

The Fed’s moves are intended to keep financial markets functioning and lending flowing to businesses and consumers. Otherwise, as revenue dries up for countless small businesses that have suddenly lost customers, those employers could be forced to lay off workers or even seek bankruptcy protection.


Kroger changes affect one Memphis store

5:55 PM CT, March 15

While Kroger is changing its hours at stores across the country, only one Memphis store is affected.

The East Memphis location at 540 S Mendenhall near Sanderlin usually is open 24 hours. However, at this time it is open from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. 

Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and chief executive officer, said commonly used areas are being cleaned more frequently including checkout, credit card machines, conveyor belts, food counters and shelves during restocking.

Employees are cleaning restrooms more frequently and extra hand sanitizer stations are placed throughout the store. Shopping carts are being wiped down and free disinfectant should be available at entrances for customers who wish to sanitize their baskets.

The store said it is continuing to practice safe food handling and working with suppliers to replenish high demand items.

The store is working with its associates by asking them to monitor their health and providing hand sanitizer in employee-only areas. If associates or a family member is sick, they are asked to stay home out of caution. Employees are not traveling by air for business through March 31, Virtual meetings are recommended. Employees who are directly affected are receiving financial support from the store’s helping hand fund – company-sponsored financial assistance for employees.


Walmart hours to change at some local stores

5:07 PM CT, March 15

Some Walmart stores are reducing their hours until further notice.

Sunday marked the beginning of some stores changing hours to allow employees time to clean their stores and restock.

Walmart stores altering hours:

  • 8400 Highway 64, Bartlett: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
  • 560 W Poplar Ave, Collierville: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
  • 577 N Germantown Pkwy, Cordova: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. 
  • 8445 Us Highway 51 N, Millington: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Some stores are keeping their hours:

  • 3950 Austin Peay Hwy, Raleigh: Open 6 a.m. until midnight.
  • 6520 Memphis Arlington Rd, Bartlett: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
  • 6727 Raleigh Lagrange Road, Bartlett: Open 6 a.m. until midnight.
  • 6990 E Shelby Dr, South Riverdale: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
  • 5255 Elvis Presley Blvd, South Memphis: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
  • 7525 Winchester Rd, Southwind: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.
  • 2856 Hickory Hill Rd, Hickory Ridge: Open 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.


Council attendance discouraged

4:22 PM CT, March 15

As expected, city council chairwoman Patrice Robinson is discouraging citizens from attending the March 24 council session in person and instead directing them to the live stream of committee and full council sessions on the council’s website.

This follows a similar directive from the Shelby County Commission last week which has committee meetings this coming Wednesday.

“The Memphis City Council will appeal to its constituents to protect themselves in the coming weeks through its communication outlets,” Robinson said in a Sunday afternoon statement. “Furthermore the city council suggests that citizens utilize the streaming options available to view the upcoming council meeting … to avoid the crowds and potential contact with sick individuals.”

The meetings of the council and commission must be open to the public under state law.

Council members and commissioners must be physically present in order to have a quorum and to vote on matters under state law. While they can attend a meeting by teleconference and participate in debates on matters, they cannot vote on any matters unless they are physically present at the meeting.


Tennessee confirmed COVID-19 cases rise to 39

2:25 PM CT, March 15

The Tennessee Department of Health said there are seven new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, March 15, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the state to 39.

There are three new cases in Davidson County and four new cases in Williamson County. Shelby County has two confirmed cases at this time.


Germantown Animal Shelter revising policies

2:38 PM CT, March 15

Germantown Animal Shelter is temporarily revising its policies due to COVID-19.

At this time the suburban shelter will not accept surrendered pets. Animals impounded will only be ones that threaten public safety or need medical attention.

The shelter will be temporarily suspending volunteer orientation programs and is currently not accepting any new volunteers.

The changes are in line with social distancing practices set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They will be in place until further notice.


Shelby County Schools closing district office

1:56 PM CT, March 15

Superintendent Joris Ray is closing the Shelby County Schools district offices.

Visitors will not be allowed, and the district is establishing remote work guidelines for SCS administrators. The closure is in effect from March 13 until 27 so employees can limit personal contact. Crews are deep cleaning throughout the district during the break.

Thursday, SCS announced schools would be closed until March 30.

“As one of the largest employers in Shelby County and Tennessee, our focus at SCS is on protecting students and staff during this public health crisis,” Ray said in a release. “While some in-person work such as cleaning, maintenance and security is necessary to operate the District, we aim to increase social distancing and decrease the likelihood of disease transmission with this strategy.”

Pay for employees will not be affected. The student records office will also still be able to process online requests.

Board Chair Miska Clay-Bibbs said the board supported Ray in this measure.


YMCA outlines screening steps at child care programs

12:29 PM CT, March 15

The area YMCA gave all branches and program locations a medical grade sanitizing this weekend and plans to screen all children and parents entering early learning centers, spring break camps and other child care programs.

The YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South outlined the measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic in an email to members Sunday, March 15.

While facilities and programs remain open, the organization has stepped up cleaning, focusing on customer touch points, high traffic areas and commonly used surfaces.

“This weekend all of our branches and program locations received a medical grade sanitizing on top of our additional cleaning measures that have been put into place to prevent the spread of illness,” president and chief executive officer Jerry Martin said.

Screening measures at points of contact for children will include:

  • Taking the temperature of children and staff and asking questions to make sure there have been no signs of illness within 24 hours.
  • Requiring anyone entering a program space to wash their hands properly under supervision of staff.
  • Barring outside toys, stuffed animals, electronic devices and other personal belongings in child care spaces. Essential items such as infant’s pacifiers will be sanitized by staff.
  • Parents and other staff won’t be allowed inside program areas except in an emergency, at which time they will go through health screening and hand-washing protocols.
  • Children who show symptoms of fever (greater than 100 degrees), cough or shortness of breath, runny nose, sore throat, weakness, etc. within 24 hours won’t be allowed to check in to child care programs.

The organization said it has opened additional child care program sites in DeSoto County and Oxford and Lafayette County, Mississippi.

“While no one can predict with certainty how severely Memphis and the Mid-South will be impacted by coronavirus, we are monitoring the situation and are prepared to respond accordingly,” Martin said.


Memphis closing community centers and libraries

12:42 PM CT, March 15

The city of Memphis is closing its libraries and community centers beginning Wednesday, an update from Mayor Jim Strickland’s office stated.

The closure remains in effect until further notice, but parks and golf courses will remain open.

The libraries designated as Shelby County Schools meal distribution sites will operate as drive-up sites.

  • Crenshaw Branch: 531 Vance Avenue
  • Frayser Branch: 3712 Argonne Street
  • Levi Branch: 3676 Third Street
  • North Branch: 1192 Vollintine Avenue
  • Raleigh Branch: 3157 Powers Road
  • Whitehaven Branch: 4120 Millbranch Road

Additionally, the city will not accept public gathering permits and is revoking those with events scheduled in the next two weeks. The update said social distancing is important even as the risk remains low.

The city said it has 20 tests pending. It reaffirmed the two positive tests and said 9 were cleared, in a release. 133 people are under quarantine.

Shelby County Health Department said Thursday tests have been available for those who have needed them.

<strong>In 1918, social distancing helped reduce the number of flu deaths in St. Louis.&nbsp;</strong>(Graph by City of Memphis)

In 1918, social distancing helped reduce the number of flu deaths in St. Louis. (Graph by City of Memphis)


March 09, 2020

What to do if you feel sick

12:57 PM CT, March 9

If you are feeling sick or suspect you were exposed to the coronavirus, your first step should be to call the Shelby County Health Department at (901) 222-9000.

If you have traveled to an area where there is an outbreak or have been exposed to someone who is a confirmed case, a health department worker will come to your house and will likely ask you to isolate yourself at home.

If you are going to your doctor’s office, please let the office know before you come in that you feel your case may be serious. It is definitely serious if you have recently traveled to an affected area or have been in close contact – even for 10 minutes – with a confirmed COVID-19 patient.

Symptoms appear in a broad range between 2 and 10 days after exposure and infection. If someone has not developed symptoms in 14 days from alleged exposure, it is deemed unlikely that they were infected.

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March 15, 2020

CDC: Virus probably doesn’t spread through food

1:52 PM CT, March 15

According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s unlikely the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread through food.

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching his or her mouth, nose, or possibly eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food.



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