Coronavirus live blog, March 31: Shelby County reports 405 cases, including 3 deaths

By Updated: March 31, 2020 7:38 PM CT | Published: March 31, 2020 4:00 AM CT

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Here’s the latest from Memphis and Shelby County, below, when it comes to dealing with the novel coronavirus. To view our full coverage, check out The Daily Memphian’s  coronavirus landing page.

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Confirmed cases
Shelby County
405
Metro* area
546
Tennessee
2,239
U.S.
177,452

Metro cases include Shelby, Fayette and Tipton counties in Tennessee; Crittenden County, Arkansas and DeSoto and Marshall counties in Mississippi.


March 31, 2020

Le Bon Appetit postponed

5:42 PM CT, March 31

Le Bon Appetit, the bi-annual fundraiser for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital that Kelly English hosts with the Le Bonheur Club, has been postponed from June to June 12, 2021.

The decision was announced Tuesday afternoon and is due to the uncertainty of when restaurants will reopen and people will be able to safely gather in large groups.

“It’s obviously been on our radar, but as a hospital and a small independent restaurateur, we both had giant fish we had to fry immediately,” English said.

The first festival was held in 2012 at The Columns and in 2014 and 2016 at other venues; in 2018, it was at Crosstown Concourse.

“We found our forever home there,” English said.

He said he and other organizers considered a date in the fall, but decided against it. Chefs from around the country come in for the event, and English feels they’ll all be preoccupied with getting their own businesses running again.

“We thought about doing it more quickly but there were several things we considered,” he said. “The other chefs, that we don’t want to have to reschedule it more than once, and the fact that if everything is back to normal, Memphis is going to be one busy place in the fall. It is going to be fun!”

Le Bon Appetit has raised more than $1 million for the hospital since it started

.If you already have tickets, you can use them for the 2021 event, make it a donation, or get a refund. Get more information at lebonappetit.org or call 901-287-6308.

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More changes for MATA to better service for riders

5:39 PM CT, March 31

Beginning Wednesday, April 1, Memphis Area Transit Authority will stage additional buses at its transit centers to alleviate the problems that have been created when a bus reaches its 10-passenger limit.

MATA will also post new schedules online that reflect the additional buses operating between scheduled trips, transit officials announced Tuesday.

The staged buses will be waiting at the William Hudson Transit Center on Main Street and the transit centers on American Way and on Airways. The process is intended to reduce wait times for passengers and position MATA drivers to respond more quickly.

MATA began operating at reduced levels on Monday, while adding extra buses to key routes. However, to comply with local executive orders and guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MATA has adhered to a 10-person limit on buses that left some passengers waiting for a bus.

And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, MATA officials are also asking that local employers be “as flexible as possible.”

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Forgivable loan program approved for affected Downtown businesses

4:59 PM CT, March 31

A Downtown body approved a new forgivable loan program to assist Downtown businesses negatively affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

During a specially-called virtual meeting on Tuesday, March 31, the Downtown Memphis Commission’s Center City Development Commission approved the Downtown Business Continuity Forgivable Loan Program, which will distribute a total of $200,000 to between 10 and 30 businesses. 

Applications for the loans, ranging in amounts from $5,000 to $20,000, will be accepted beginning Thursday, April 2.

“The goal here is to assist eligible businesses that are in jeopardy of closing solely due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic and socioeconomic impact,” said Brett Roler, DMC vice president of planning and development. “So we’re not providing a tool for businesses with structural issues or (that) haven’t been successful in the past. What we’re trying to do is stabilize businesses that have been very successful, up until now, and are in danger of closing, solely due to this health crisis.”

The loans are available to existing, locally-owned, eligible businesses. Franchises, nonprofits and independent contractors are not eligible. 

The funding can be used for fixed assets, operational expenses, rent and restructuring debt. 

If the business operates continuously and remains in business for two years after the loan closes and the funds are received, the remaining balance will be forgiven. But if the business closes or reduces staff by more than half after reopening, fails to maintain regular operating hours or fails to make regular monthly loan payments, the balance will not be forgiven.

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Radians donates respirators to Memphis

4:52 PM CT, March 31

Radians, a manufacturer of quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), has donated more than 14,000 N95 masks to its hometown Memphis.

Face masks, like the NIOSH-approved N95 masks, provide better protection than loose-fitting surgical masks and are becoming scarcer, subject to increasing demand amid the COVID-19 crisis, the company noted.

Radians added the N95 respirator to its PPE portfolio in 2018.

“We knew that adding N95 respirators to our portfolio was important,” said Radians President, Bill England, “but with the COVID-19 pandemic, they have become a critical PPE item to help protect those with the highest risk of exposure.”

Radians CEO, Mike Tutor, said the donation represents the company’s corporate responsibility to help during challenging times.

“With a worldwide shortage of respirator masks, we knew this donation would quickly assist first responders and health care workers as they help Memphis rise above the COVID-19 crisis,” Tutor said. “The respirators will also be of service at COVID-19 test sites.”

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Shelby County up to 405 cases, including 3 deaths

10:07 AM CT, March 31

There are 405 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Shelby County, as of Tuesday, March 31. That number includes three deaths.

The Shelby County Health Department said in its daily email that two of those deaths were reported to the agency this morning. 

A total of 4,665 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Shelby County.

 

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Mississippi reports slight increases in DeSoto, Marshall Counties

10:53 AM CT, March 31

Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting 937 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. The number is an increase of 90.

DeSoto County has seven new cases for a total of 84 cases and remains at one death. The northwest county has the second-most confirmed cases in the state behind Hinds County, which is reporting 90 confirmed cases.

Marshall County has one new case for a total of 14.

MSDH is now reporting 19 additional people have died from complications of COVID-19, one in each of the following counties: Amite, Bolivar, Hancock, Harrison, Holmes, Lafayette, Lee, Leflore, Montgomery, Panola, Perry, Rankin, Sunflower, Tunica and Webster.

Tippah and Wilkinson counties are each reporting two deaths.

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Coronavirus claims Second Presbyterian pastor

7:44 AM CT, March 31

Tim Russell, assistant pastor to middle adults at Second Presbyterian Church, died Monday night from complications of COVID-19.

The church confirmed on social media that Russell died.

Russell is survived by his wife, Kathe.

The Shelby County Health Department confirmed three deaths and 405 positive tests as of Tuesday morning.

The church announced in its Sunday, March 22, online service, that a “team member” had the virus, and The Daily Memphian independently confirmed it was Russell. He was treated for the virus in a local hospital.

Church members were notified in a March 21 email from senior pastor George Robertson that Russell tested positive.

“Being the compassionate and self-sacrificial shepherd that he is, Tim is heartbroken this keeps him away from you, his people,” Robertson wrote in his email, “but wanted us to inform you of the diagnosis because he loves you so much.”

Monday night, an email to church members said Russell had taken a turn for the worse and died.

Russell was a Pennsylvania native and graduate of Geneva College. He received his master of divinity degree from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Russell had spent much time in Memphis after completing his education. He previously served as the Second Presbyterian’s assistant pastor. He was also president of Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies and spent 2009 until 2012 as the headmaster of Westminster Academy – a classical Christian school in East Memphis.

Before becoming the pastor of middle adults at Second Presbyterian, he was the head of Lexington Christian Academy – a college preparatory school in the Boston area. He also previously served as Geneva College’s financial aid director, college chaplain and church relations director.

The first death in Shelby County was confirmed Saturday, but the Shelby County Health Department has not released any details on the person, including the age – other than the person was over 60 – gender or area of town where they lived.

There were no details available on the third death reported by the health department Tuesday morning.

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405 confirmed cases, 3 deaths in Health Department update

2:01 PM CT, March 31

The count of confirmed coronavirus cases in Shelby County stood at 405 as of Tuesday afternoon, March 31.

There have been three deaths in the county and four in the Memphis metro, with 536 confirmed cases in the metro area.

A total of 4,665 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Shelby County.

The ages of the deaths are between 50-60, Shelby County Health Department director Alisa Haushalter said at the daily 2. p.m. briefing.

An assisted living facility not named had 24 tested and six tested positive. No visitors are being allowed there.

More than 40% of positives in Shelby County are between 20 and 40 years old. Nearly a quarter of positives are between 21-30.

Many of the people in the first cases reported have returned to work, she said.

The model the department is working with on surge analysis  is “not ready for prime time,” she said, but preventative measures can still delay the surge of patients expected for hospitals.  

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Latest heat map of Shelby County COVID cases

2:54 PM CT, March 31

Here is the latest heat map on the Shelby County Health Department website that shows where the people with confirmed cases live.

The darker red shows clusters of where the positive cases live.  

This map data was captured through Monday, March 30, so it does not represent all 405 cases as of Tuesday afternoon, March 31.

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Watch the Health Department daily briefing live

1:55 PM CT, March 31

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

Watch below:

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First Horizon Foundation donates to COVID-19 relief efforts

12:44 PM CT, March 31

First Horizon Foundation announced Tuesday, March 31, it is donating $2.5 million in support of COVID-19 emergency relief efforts to nonprofit organizations throughout its footprint.

The funding will be distributed to select organizations that provide meals, educational and emergency assistance relief in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

“We recognize that many individuals and families are experiencing hardship due to COVID-19,” First Horizon National Corp. Chairman and CEO Bryan Jordan said in a release. “During this unprecedented time, we want those in need in our communities to know that the First Horizon Foundation and our employees are here to support them.”

The foundation will collaborate with First Horizon Bank market presidents across its footprint to identify and coordinate with organizations that will receive expedited grants intended to help the broadest number of individuals and families impacted by the national health care crisis.

The special COVID-19 relief funds being provided are in addition to the foundation’s annual charitable giving grants that supported 650 organizations in 2019.

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Poplar Healthcare now processing tests here

12:04 PM CT, March 31

Poplar Healthcare, a leading anatomic and molecular pathology laboratory headquartered in Memphis, is now processing COVID-19 tests in its 113,000-square-foot accredited lab.

Testing is performed on the cobas SARS-CoV-2 Test via the cobas 6800 System, which received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on March 13.

In addition, Poplar Healthcare is performing testing on the Roche cobas z480 analyzer and has requested FDA emergency use authorization.

“As coronavirus spreads across the nation at an alarming rate, Poplar Healthcare is well situated to help control the outbreak by providing patients and providers access to COVID-19 testing,” said medical director, Dr. Shawn Kinsey. 

The lab near the FedEx world hub allows the company to serve Memphis and markets around the world.

“We are routinely providing results in 24 to 48 hours from receipt of the specimen,” Kinsey said. 

“Providing testing on different platforms allows the laboratory flexibility to adapt to challenges in the supply chain and provides additional capacity to serve patients and healthcare workers who need the testing the most,” said Anami Patel, the company’s vice president of genomic operations and development.

Poplar Healthcare is one of the largest physician-owned pathology practices in the U.S., offering a wide variety of DNA- and RNA-based molecular tests. It receives thousands of samples each day and is supported by a team of more than 25 board-certified and fellowship-trained pathologists.

Health care providers and institutions interested in obtaining access to the test may call Poplar Healthcare, (901) 526-1912 or email the company at: covid19@poplarhealthcare.com.

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Germantown Charity Horse Show reschedules 72nd annual event

11:13 AM CT, March 31

For the first time in 72 years, the Germantown Charity Horse Show has been rescheduled for a year.

Wanda Chancellor, event’s marketing and public relations director, said the board made the decision Monday night due to growing concerns of the COVID-19 spread.

The horse show will use its reserves to donate to Kindred Place, which has been its charity for the last several years. Additionally, they will look to help other charities helping those in need as the coronavirus continues to disrupt normality.

Chancellor wanted to inform horse show lovers the show was not cancelled, just delayed until 2021.

The show was originally scheduled for this coming June 2-6.

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App available for certifying weekly unemployment

11:01 AM CT, March 31

People who apply for unemployment benefits in Tennessee must do weekly certifications to receive benefits.

These certifications are necessary to ensure a claimant is eligible to receive benefits for that week, which lessens the chance of having an overpayment.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has a smartphone app, Jobs4TN, that allows claimants to complete their weekly certifications without having to use a computer or internet service.  

The mobile app is available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Using the mobile app directs traffic away from the Jobs4TN website, creating more capacity for Tennesseans to file online for unemployment benefits.  

A claimant uses the same login needed to access Jobs4TN.gov to use the mobile app. Once logged in, the user will find a series of questions to answer that will determine their weekly eligibility to receive unemployment benefits.  

The weekly certification process using the mobile app should take between five and 10 minutes to complete.

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Muddy’s to close remaining 2 locations

10:48 AM CT, March 31

Muddy’s Bake Shop will temporarily close the Broad Avenue and East Memphis locations when all items are sold on Wednesday, April 1; the midtown Muddy’s closed a couple of weeks ago.

Owner Kat Gordon posted to Facebook:”We know this is the right decision to hit the pause button now (and fully appreciate the cosmic hilarity of opening on Leap Day and “closing” on April Fool’s). Memphis, we will be back. We will stay in touch. Most importantly, WE LOVE YOU.”

 Hours for Tuesday and Wednesday are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and it’s walk-up service. The East Memphis store is at 5101 Sanderlin and the kitchen is open at 2497 Broad.

Muddy’s recently celebrated its “third anniversary”, actually 12 years as it opened on Leap Day 2008; read Gordon’s story here: https://dailymemphian.com/subscriber/article/10991/leap-day-memphis-bakery-muddys-kat-gordon

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MPD debunks fake social media post

10:15 AM CT, March 31

Despite the claims of social media postings, Memphis Police have not stopped responding to assault, larceny, car thefts and other crimes during the COVID-19 outbreak.

A fake social media post with the logo of WREG-TV Channel 3 has been circulating online, making the claim.

“Be advised: If you see this image on social media, it is not a true image that was created by News Channel 3,” MPD posted on its Facebook page March 26.

The fake post lists several crimes to which it claims MPD will no longer respond. 

“To clarify, Channel News 3 is not the author of this image and they have not reported this information,” MPD said. 

The police department told the public to follow its Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates “relative to MPD operations.”

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Hilton furloughs employees, cuts pay

8:53 AM CT, March 31

With travel grinding to a standstill due to COVID-19, many managed and franchised Hilton hotels have either suspended operations or reduced services due to low occupancy.

To significantly reduce expenses and preserve liquidity, Hilton announced it has furloughed employees, reduced schedules or decreased the pay of its corporate team.

Beginning April 4, Hilton will reduce schedules or furlough many corporate employees for up to 90 days.

The moves impact Hilton’s Memphis properties.

During this time, these employees will maintain their health benefits and, subject to local regulations, be eligible for employment benefits. Hilton plans to reduce the pay of those who are not furloughed by up to 20% for the duration of the crisis.

Through its Hilton Workforce Resource Center, team members are being given direct and, in some cases, expedited access to more than 500,000 temporary jobs at more than 30 leading companies including Amazon, CVS, Albertsons and Walgreens.

Hilton said it hopes to expand this program globally and welcome team members back when travel resumes.

Hilton’s executive committee will take a pay cut of 50% for the duration of the crisis. President/CEO Christopher Nassetta will forgo his salary for the remainder of the year.

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Regional One, Red Cross kick off weekly blood drive today

10:00 AM CT, March 31

The blood drives, which will happen every Tuesday through May 19, start today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Employees of Regional One, including the executive staff, will be donating this morning at 11:30 a.m.

The drives will take place each week at the American Red Cross, 1399 Madison.

Blood banks are experiencing severe blood shortages due to the large number of blood drives that have been canceled due to the outbreak.

 

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March 30, 2020

Pediatrics East reduces hours

7:29 PM CT, March 30

Pediatrics East is reducing its hours and eliminating some services.

The children’s clinic has locations in Arlington, Bartlett, Cordova, Collierville and Germantown.

The offices will stop offering its early walk-in and night clinics due to growing COVID-19 concerns.

On weekdays, pediatricians will see patients for well visits from 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Weekday sick visits will be from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Those who do not feel comfortable going to the clinic at this time may schedule a virtual telemedicine appointment. Appointment availability can be checked from by calling 901-757-3535, option 1 between 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

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NCAA grants Division I spring sports athletes additional year

6:07 PM CT, March 30

Division I spring sports athletes may have lost a season of play by the coronavirus pandemic, but they won’t lose a season of eligibility.

The NCAA on Monday granted athletes in spring sports an additional year of eligibility and adjusted financial rules to accommodate those who stay an extra year along with new recruits entering school as freshmen.

The question had lingered since the seasons were canceled as the coronavirus problems led to the canceling of seasons, such as baseball and softball. Most seasons had barely started when the NCAA put all sports on hold indefinitely.

“The Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn, said in the NCAA release. “The Board of Governors encouraged conferences and schools to take action in the best interest of student-athletes and their communities, and now schools have the opportunity to do that.”

Division I regulations allow a athlete to play four seasons over a five-year period. The extension also will provide those athletes with an additional year of eligibility – extending the five years to six.

The council did not include winter sports in the extension. 

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Memphis Flyer moving to biweekly print publication

5:13 PM CT, March 30

The city’s alternative weekly newspaper, The Memphis Flyer, is temporarily moving from weekly to biweekly print publication, the paper’s parent company announced on Monday, March 30.

Contemporary Media Inc. CEO Anna Traverse Fogle said that the change is occurring because many of the paper’s distribution points are currently closed, because readers are staying indoors and to reduce spending to accommodate for decreased revenue.

The Memphis Flyer is also rolling out a home delivery option for $5 per month. 

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Court cases reset again

5:02 PM CT, March 30

Shelby County Criminal Court and General Sessions court have again reset court cases suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

After the state Supreme Court announced last week that all in-person court appearances for people not in custody are suspended through April 30, the courts again pushed back hearings, trials and court cases for a second time.Criminal court cases in Divisions 1-10, general sessions criminal court division 7-15 or in drug court previously set for March 16 to March 31  have been reset for week of May 1 to May 18.

Court cases in criminal court, general sessions divisions 7-15 and drug court on April 1 to April 30 have been reset for May 19 to June 16.

Bond hearings and arraignments for defendants in-custody are still being held.

Shelby County civil court cases are also reset for May 4 through May 19.

For more information about reset court dates call:

·        General Sessions Criminal Court Clerk: 901-222-3500

·        Criminal Court Clerk: 901-222-3200

·        Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office: 901-222-1300

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