Coronavirus daily blog, March 23: Second St. Jude employee tests positive

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 30, 2020 10:40 AM CT | Published: March 23, 2020 4:00 AM CT

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March 23, 2020

Second St. Jude employee tests positive

10:21 PM CT, March 23

Over the weekend, a second employee at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in patient care tested positive for COVID-19.

“It’s important to know that the employee followed our established procedures and stayed home after the first sign of symptoms and is on self-quarantine now,” St. Jude said in a statement.

The employee developed symptoms while away from work and was last at work 12 days ago.

Due to privacy and confidentiality laws, the hospital said it could not share personal information about the employee. It is working with the Shelby County Health Department to make sure appropriate follow-up measures are taken. 

All close contacts of the employee at the hospital are being identified and notified. 


Commission to delay hearing land use cases for 30 days

7:22 PM CT, March 23

The Shelby County Commission approved a moratorium to delay considering land use cases that need its approval for 30 days.

The resolution voted on Monday, March 23, passed 11-0. Future county commission meetings will be held in an electronic format – at least through May.

The add-on resolution gives county officials time to find an online public hearing format that gives the public a fair opportunity to participate in land use cases.

When the commission typically hears a land use case, both the applicant (and its supporters) and opposition are offered equal time to present their cases before the body makes a decision on the matter.

These public hearings normally happen in-person but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, gatherings of 10 or more people have been discouraged, according to guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

John Zeanah, director of the Office of Planning and Development, said they are also searching for a way to livestream its next meeting, soit ca n allow the public to participate in upcoming Land Use Control Board public hearings.

If the OPD is unable to find the technology by Friday, then the cases scheduled for April 9 will be reschedule for May 14, Planning Director Josh Whitehead said in an email Monday.

Gov. Bill Lee, meanwhile, signed an executive order Friday, March 20, permitting electronic voting by municipal and county boards to increase social distancing required due to COVID-19.


Shelby County Sheriff’s Office employee tests positive for COVID-19

6:37 PM CT, March 23

A Shelby County Sheriff’s Office employee at the county jail has tested positive for the coronavirus, Sheriff’s Office officials said Monday, March 23.

“The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has received confirmation from the Shelby County Health Department that a SCSO employee that works with detainees at the Shelby County jail has tested positive for Covid-19,”Capt. Anthony Buckner, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said in a video posted on Twitter Monday night. “We cannot disclose personal information about this employee due to privacy and confidentiality laws.”


Read more.


Old Dominick will create up to 10,000 units of hand sanitizer

5:33 PM CT, March 23

Old Dominick Distillery has partnered with Shelby County to produce up to 10,000 units of hand sanitizer for distribution to the lower income community and homeless population of Shelby County. It’s one of several distilleries in the country to start making sanitizer, which is hard to find.

 “In this unprecedented time of crisis, the Old Dominick team wants to help our community anyway we can,” says Alex Castle, master distiller and senior vice president of Old Dominick Distillery. “We‘ve only recently received permission from the federal government to produce hand sanitizer, which we are actively pursuing at this time.”

Old Dominick expects small-scale testing of hand sanitizer to begin early this week and full production next week.

County Commissioner Tami Sawyer sponsored the resolution that allows emergency funding to cover costs of the production.

Shelby County will distribute all sanitizer produced by Old Dominick. Sawyer plans for a large portion of the hand sanitizer to be distributed to low income communities and the balance given to the homeless population and Shelby County Schools food distribution sites. 

Old Dominick Distillery has suspended all distillery tours and The Bar at the distillery will remain temporarily closed in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.


Community Foundation COVID-19 fund accepting donations

4:57 PM CT, March 23

Shelby County Commission Chairman Mark Billingsley said efforts have begun to help those who have been negatively effected.

“A lot of people are at home happy and healthy, but they want to help in some way,” the Germantown commissioner said.

People may donate to the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund which is hosted by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis Foundation.

“The (fund) will provide flexible funding to organizations serving community members who have been impacted by the novel coronavirus and the economic consequences of the pandemic in West Tennessee, Eastern Arkansas and Northern Mississippi.”

The foundation administers grants to many area non-profit sponsors.


Haushalter likely to issue public health crisis order

4:28 PM CT, March 23

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter updated county commissioners on the local coronavirus situation Monday afternoon and said she plans to issue an executive order deeming the outbreak a “public health crisis,” likely tomorrow.

What that means exactly was not immediately clear.

This story will be updated.


Gov. Lee suspends elective surgeries, non-emergency dental work

3:37 PM CT, March 23

Gov. Bill Lee announced another executive order Monday, March 23, designed to increase the supply of personal protective equipment such as masks and other supplies. The order would suspend elective surgeries at hospitals and and stop work at dental offices, except for emergency procedures.

Lee said he hopes to free up the protective devices and ventilators for the response to the coronavirus. In addition, he said Tennessee colleges of applied technology are using 3-D equipment to print face shields to enable the extended use of face shields for health care workers and patients.

Gov. Lee made the announcement at his daily press conference after setting up a COVID-19 Unified Command, which will be run by Stuart McWhorter, his former commissioner of Finance & Administration.


Shelby total grows to 93; 615 cases statewide

3:08 PM CT, March 23

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were 93 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Shelby County as of Monday, March 23. That’s up from the 84 the Shelby County Health Department announced earlier in the day. The 84 includes 80 Shelby County residents and four non-residents.

The total statewide was 615 cases and two deaths. 

The Department of Health’s new numbers include two cases in Fayette County and six cases in Tipton County. 

One hundred eighty four cases were in those age 21-30; another 116 cases were in those age 31-40.



Watch the Health Department press conference LIVE

1:53 PM CT, March 23

The Shelby County Health Department’s daily coronavirus update is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

Watch below:



County issuing stay-at-home order

2:17 PM CT, March 23

Shelby County has reviewed Memphis and Nashville “Safer at Home” orders and has talked with all six municipalities, said Mayor Lee Harris. Each will ban non essential businesses. All orders will come by end of day tomorrow.

An all-encompassing order is expected from the Shelby County Health Department. The date will not be specified but can be renewed every seven days.

They are also working with bordering counties, according to Harris.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter says there is transmission in workplace and the county needs to work to reduce it. The Safer at Home orders will accomplish that.


Shelby Co. Clerk’s office shut down

2:13 PM CT, March 23

The Shelby County Clerk’s office has closed all seven of its offices, effective immediately.

A statement from clerk Wanda Halbert ahead of an afternoon press conference says an employee in the clerk’s office was exposed to someone with COVID-19.


UTHSC expects to test 150 by close of business today

2:12 PM CT, March 23

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center expects to test 150 people by the end of Monday at the drive-through testing center at Tiger Lane.

 Testing, which is by appointment only, is being done in a series of tents set up at the Fairgrounds. Individuals remain in their cars throughout the process. To qualify, people must be referred by their medical provider. Physicians have been instructed call a call center at University Clinical Health to ensure symptoms merit testing.

 “A link has been put out to community providers that instructs them on how to get their patients tested,” said Dr. Scott Strome, executive dean of the College of Medicine. “At present, the testing is being provided free of charge in an effort to serve the public need.” 

Samples now are being sent to commercial labs for testing. Later in the week, UTHSC intends to use its own labs for processing, shortening the turnaround time.

Most of the people working at the site are medical students, volunteering their time. 

“UTHSC has about 700 medical students, and as a result of this pandemic, their education has been interrupted. This is their way of giving back to the community.” 

The site is a cooperative effort between the City of Memphis, Shelby County Health Department and UTHSC.


Gov. Lee establishes COVID-19 Unified Command

2:08 PM CT, March 23

Gov. Bill Lee announced today he established the COVID-19 Unified Command, a joint effort to be led by Finance & Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, to streamline coordination across the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Military to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic challenges every aspect of traditional government response in a crisis,” said Lee. “I have appointed the Unified Command to effectively change the way we attack COVID-19 in Tennessee as we work to simultaneously address health, economic and supply crises.”

McWhorter will leave the Finance & Administration post to head the COVID-19 Unified Command. McWhorter appointed retired Brig. Gen. Scott Brower to serve as chief of staff for the operation.

“Gen. Brower’s special forces background and previous service as the acting senior commander for the 101st Airborne Division has enabled him to pull leaders together and troubleshoot quickly in a crisis,” said McWhorter. “Gov. Lee has urged our team to challenge every barrier and assembling this team is the first step.”

Brower resides in Clarksville and most recently served as the military advisor in residence to the president of Austin Peay State University.

The COVID-19 Unified Command also includes

  • Patrick Sheehan, TEMA Director
  • Dr. Lisa Piercey, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Health
  • Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, Adjutant General, Tennessee Department of Military.


Collierville city buildings closing

1:48 PM CT, March 23

Collierville is closing all municipal buildings at 5 p.m. Monday, March 23, until further notice. Residents should not go to Town Hall unless absolutely necessary and should handle business online. Collierville staff will continue to work so services can be provided.


Strickland issues Safer at Home order

12:00 PM CT, March 23

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland put the city under a shelter-in-place order Monday, March 23, that limits the movements of citizens to going to and from work at what are considered essential businesses and to get needed supplies. It takes effect at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The order is for two weeks. Strickland says that legally it was the maximum he could do, but that it could be extended.

“You must take social distancing seriously. ... If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your grandparents,” Strickland said. Doctors and Strickland say the measure was necessary to prevent rationing of healthcare and strain on hospitals.

The order is part of the declaration of a civil emergency Strickland enacted last week that closed several types of businesses and discouraged gatherings of five or more.

Strickland said the city will not “proactively” try to enforce the order but will be watching for businesses that are open when they are not supposed to be. For individuals, this is mostly the honor system.

Details of the full order, and what is considered an essential and a non-essential service, can be found here.

Arlington, Bartlett Germantown and Collierville said they will issue today or tomorrow. Lakeland and Millington cannot be reached at this time


Small business disruption growing

12:57 PM CT, March 23

The NFIB Research Center’s latest survey on the current impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on small business shows the magnitude of disruption on the small business sector is growing, NFIB announced Monday, March 23.

Currently, 76% of small businesses are negatively impacted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, a dramatic escalation from just under one-fourth of small businesses reporting the same earlier this month.

About 5% are positively impacted, likely through stronger sales due to a rise in demand for certain products, goods, and services.

State-specific data is unavailable, but NFIB State Director Jim Brown said in a release, “Our members are following the rules and doing everything they can to provide customers with the goods and services they need, as safely as they can.”

Of businesses negatively impacted, 23% are experiencing supply chain disruptions, 54% slower sales, and 9% sick employees. The 9% of owners citing sick employees likely responded out of heightened concern and precautions, with sick employees showing some signs of cold or flu-like symptoms, but not necessarily because they have employees who have tested positive for the virus.

Almost all small business owners are adjusting to their changing economic condition or to protect themselves from potential disruption. Just 6% of owners have not taken any action in response to the outbreak, a marked departure from more than half (52%) not taking action two weeks ago.

The level of concern among small business owners about the coronavirus impacting their business has elevated the past two weeks. About 68% are “very” concerned about its potential impact on their business compared to 16% in the earlier survey. 

Another 23% are somewhat concerned and 9% are slightly concerned. Just 1% are not at all concerned.

While many small businesses (47%) have not talked with their bank about financing needs, 30% are planning to do so soon. Another 13% have talked with their personal bank already, 9% with the SBA about their loan programs, and 1% with an online lender.

Many owners have already sought out financial help and more are planning to do so in the near future, NFIB reported.

The survey was conducted with a random sample of NFIB’s membership database of about 300,000 small business owners. The survey was conducted by email on March 20, 2020. NFIB collected 700 usable responses, all small employers with 1-360 employees.


First Horizon changing service options given COVID-19 threat

11:41 AM CT, March 23

Beginning Monday, March 23, First Horizon National Corp. is adjusting services at banking centers to drive-thru only to help keep customers and employees as safe as possible.

Lobbies will be available by appointment only. Appointments can be used to take care of:

New accounts

Lending and investment needs

Specialized service requests

To make an appointment, contact a banking center near you. The bank holding company, parent of First Tennessee Bank, strongly encourages customers to consider using its expanded drive-thru capabilities or other servicing channels.

Customers can use First Horizon ATMs to deposit or withdraw money, as well as access any ATM in the AllPoint Network without accruing foreign ATM fees.

For business clients, contact your relationship manager, treasury officer or the Business Service Center at 888-382-4968 for questions regarding business continuity plans related to COVID-19.

Learn more about First Horizon’s safety efforts here. Take advantage of Digital or Mobile Banking. If you aren’t already connected visit or call 800-382-5465.


Mississippi and DeSoto County cases rise

10:19 AM CT, March 23

Mississippi has announced 43 new cases in Mississippi for total of 249.

Those numbers include 23 confirmed total cases in DeSoto County and three in Marshall County.

DeSoto County has the second most cases in the state.

The most heavily concentrated area in the Magnolia State is Hinds, where Jackson, Mississippi is located. The county is reporting 24 cases.

Hancock County, along the Gulf of Mexico, has reported the state’s only death.


84 now positive in Shelby County

11:10 AM CT, March 23

The new total of 84 includes four people in the county now who are not Shelby County residents. On Sunday, there were 66 cases in the county.

As of Sunday afternoon, there are 505 confirmed cases in the state. In Shelby County, 103 are being monitored for symptoms.

Tipton County has 5 confirmed cases; DeSoto County has 23. Crittenden County in Arkansas has four or fewer.

“There are now indications that person-to-person spread in the workplace and the community is taking place. The Health Department recommends strict adherence to social-distancing recommendations,” according to its morning email update.

The increase in case numbers is not unexpected because testing has increased, especially by commercial laboratories, the department said.

 Laboratory reports of positive cases are reported to local health departments as soon as results are available. State numbers are updated at 2 p.m. CDT daily; but there is a lag in reporting of cumulative numbers at the state level, and that accounts for any discrepancy.


Strickland to provide update on city’s efforts against COVID-19

11:20 AM CT, March 23

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has called a noon Monday, March 23, press conference at City Hall to talk about the city’s current state of civil emergency and provide an update on the city’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 virus.

The press conference comes as suburban mayors were reportedly on a conference call earlier in the day to discuss their own emergency preparations. In ramping up the state of civil emergency last week to include more business closings, Strickland said there would be more measures to come.

Local leaders across the country have been debating shelter in place orders that several states and cities have implemented that further restrict the movement of people. The orders, under different names, limit movement to only those in what are considered essentials services and businesses as well as those going to buy or get essential supplies.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee last week issued an executive order that essentially mirrors measures already in place in Memphis and Shelby County but did not extend it to a shelter-in-place order.

Meanwhile, Nashville Mayor John Cooper issued an order for the metro Nashville area closing all non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay inside except for necessary activities.

A group of medical leaders, including the president-elect and governor of the Tennessee Medical Association, has urged Lee to issue a shelter-in-place order for the state.


Planners search for way public can participate remotely in public hearings

11:16 AM CT, March 23

The planning board staff is searching for a way to livestream the next meeting in a way that allows the public to participate in the public hearings.

Public hearings are a mandatory part of the cases that come before the Land Use Control Board. If the Office of Planning & Development is unable to find the technology by Friday then the cases scheduled for the April 9 meeting will be re-docketed for the May 14 meeting, Planning Director Josh Whitehead said in a notice he emailed Monday, March 23.

The Land Use Control Board’s next scheduled meeting is 9:30 a.m. April 9, and OPD staff members are preparing for a remote, livestream meeting in which neither the board, staff nor public gathers in one place.

Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order Friday, March 20, permitting electronic voting by municipal and county boards and bodies because of the social distancing required during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday, March 27, is the deadline for the OPD staff to mail notices to property owners who live near sites that are subject to review by the Land Use Control Board on April 9.

“By that time, we hope to have chosen the best online meeting program that enables not only electronic voting but also public participation since the matters before these bodies are subject to public hearings, requiring testimony from any interested party,” Whitehead said.

“The notice mailed at the end of this week will include explicit instructions on how to participate in that meeting,” he said.

Anyone interested in a case but who does not live close enough to a site to receive a notice can visit to to email staff members for instructions.

Because of the pandemic, the OPD has dropped the requirement that applicants hold neighborhood meetings to discuss their plans and take questions.

The OPD’s offices in City Hall are closed as of Monday, March 23. Staff members are working remotely from home.

“Thank you for your cooperation and please stay safe,” Whitehead said. “We will get through this.”


Democratic rep says inventory needed for protective masks

10:55 AM CT, March 23

Democratic state Rep. Mike Stewart called on the governor and TEMA Monday, March 23, to announce the inventory of protective equipment for health care providers across the state during the coronavirus crisis.

“I’m receiving numerous reports of shortages of N95 masks and face shields,” Stewart said. “It is essential that the governor act immediately and assemble a team with the specific purpose of obtaining or manufacturing the critical supply of protection for health care workers.”

The Nashville representative said he has received calls from hospital personnel who told him they don’t have enough masks to protect their workers. He declined to name them.

Gov. Bill Lee said last week he was encouraged by federal efforts to lessen restrictions to allow industrial-type masks for health care providers. The move frees up tens of thousands of masks across the country, and Tennessee was set to pursue additional masks, Lee said, but he gave no accounting for the number of masks available in Tennessee.


UTHSC hosting online symposium; livestreaming available

10:23 AM CT, March 23

As part of the university’s efforts to share vital coronavirus information and resources for our communities, UTHSC is hosting a free coronavirus online symposium on April 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“It is important during this global pandemic that the University of Tennessee Health Science Center provides up to date and important health and prevention related information to our community,” said Dr. Karen Johnson, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and the College of Medicine Endowed Professor in Women’s Health.

The online symposium includes speakers from UTHSC and university partners, including Le Bonheur Children’s’ Hospital and Shelby County Health Department. The event free.

11:00 – 11:05

Introduction: Dr. Scott Strome, executive dean of the College of Medicine

11:05 – 11:25

The Coronavirus Pandemic: Dr. Jon McCullers, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics, Pediatrician-in-Chief Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, senior executive associate dean of Clinical Affairs

11:25 – 11:45

Hospital Preparedness to Combat Emerging Infections: Dr. Nicholas Hysmith, assistant professor pediatrics – infectious disease

11:45 – 12:05

Transmission Routes of COVID-19 and Controls in the Dental Practice: Dr. James Ragain, dean of the College of Dentistry

12:05 – 12:25

Public Health Preparation and Response to COVID-19: Alisa Haushalter, associate professor of advanced practice and doctoral studies, director Shelby County Health Department

12:25 – 12:45

Regional Biocontainment Lab and the New Coronavirus: Colleen Jonsson, professor and Endowed Van Vleet Chair of Excellence in Virology, director of the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory at UTHSC

12:45 – 1:00

Question and Answer Panel

Registration is required. To register, visit:

The symposium will be livestreamed at:


COVID threat triggers jail bailouts

9:45 AM CT, March 23

A damp chill hung over downtown Memphis as Josh Spickler walked up to the Shelby County Jail to bail out five inmates he’d never met.

“We just want to ramp up the process and then get as many as we possibly can (out of jail) before this virus really gets going,’’ said Spickler, 45.

He carried five white envelopes, each stuffed with cash, along with the hopes of many who believe Tennessee’s money bail system unjustly punishes the poor by keeping many nonviolent inmates behind bars on unproven charges because they can’t afford to buy their way out. 

Click here to read more.


Assessor’s Office offers remote services

9:45 AM CT, March 23

The Shelby County Assessor’s Office is temporarily stopping walk-in visitation at both of its locations effective Monday, March 23, until further notice as a precaution over COVID-19. 

The Assessor’s Office service representatives can still be reached by phone at 901-222-7001 or its virtual online chat feature at from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.


American Job Centers to close temporarily

9:17 AM CT, March 23

American Job Center locations in Shelby, Fayette, Lauderdale and Tipton Counties are closing Monday, March 23, after the state ordered the closures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

AJC will remain available over the phone for job-seekers by calling 901-504-6580, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Job-seekers can also find job listings and other resources at

 “These centers can see high volumes of job-seekers in relatively small spaces,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said in the release. “As a result, we agree with the state that we should temporarily shutter these locations to prevent spread and support social distance. During this time, we will continue to offer job-seekers in our region support, but we will rely on phone appointments and expand use of our on-line resources.” 

The American Job Centers are administered by the Workforce Investment Network, a program of Shelby County government.


March 22, 2020

Tennessee Health Department reports 505 COVID-19 cases, 66 in Shelby County

2:10 PM CT, March 22

Tennessee Department of Health announced Sunday afternoon 505 individuals in Tennessee have tested positive for coronavirus.

The number includes 66 in Shelby County, which is an increase from the 58 the local health department reported Sunday morning.

Sunday morning the Shelby County Health Department said one person locally is being treated from outside of the county.




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