Coronavirus live blog, May 12: Executive order on permits and health care workers extended

By Updated: May 28, 2020 4:33 PM CT | Published: May 12, 2020 9:47 AM CT

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You can protect yourself and help prevent the spread of coronavirus by:

  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with people
  • Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean

To view the city’s stay-at-home order, click here.

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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Cigna donates $20,000 to YMCA for meals

4:53 PM CT, May 12

The YMCA has provided more than 170,000 meals to local children via community meal sites during the coronavirus pandemic. Cigna is donating $20,000 to help the YMCA and its partners with the program.

The organization will use the grant to cover costs of the program including costs of meals, transporting meals, staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The YMCA partners with Shelby County Schools, the City of Memphis, Shelby County and the Mid-South Food Bank for the emergency meal program.

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Alexander’s dog steals the show at hearing

4:30 PM CT, May 12

The backdrop for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander this past Sunday on “Meet The Press” looked just a little too good to be true to some. Appearing from his home in Maryville, Tennessee, Alexander’s dog, Rufus, quickly became the focus on some early social media speculation.

Rufus didn’t appear to move at all during the interview of about 10 minutes.

Fast forward past the later news that an Alexander staffer tested positive for COVID-19 and that Alexander was self-quarantining as a result. And Tuesday found Alexander chairing Tuesday’s Senate Health and Education committee hearing from the same home setting in Maryville.

This time, Rufus was more animated although napping a good part of the time. He raised his head during comments by Senator Mitt Romney that also turned out to be one of the major points of the hearing. So clearly, those paying more attention to the dog than the hearings may have believed this was some indication of Rufus’s political leanings. At another point, he left to go for a walk.

At some point during the hearing a dog could be heard barking. Although there were other Senators and the witnesses themselves at the hearing via videoconferencing, Rufus got pegged as responsible for the breach of Senate decorum.

Later in the day, Alexander defended Rufus on the allegation calling it “fake news” in a Tweet.

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COVID-19 in Tennessee

4:33 PM CT, May 12

 

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Governor extends executive order dealing with permits and health care workers

3:10 PM CT, May 12

Gov. Bill Lee extended continuation of a previous executive order to boost social distancing efforts.

It maintains extended deadlines for motor vehicles and handgun permits and encourages working from home. In addition, it increases access to healthcare through telehealth, rapid expansion of healthcare workers by extending lifting of regulations on what healthcare workers can do. Supply chain and price gouging protections also will be extended along with 90-day supplies for certain prescriptions.

COVID-19 testing will be increased on vulnerable populations, as the state widens opportunities for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

The first testing will be Friday in Scott County using mobile clinics.

An estimated 12,500 tests will be conducted in the next four to six weeks through the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

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Watch Gov. Bill Lee’s press briefing

2:57 PM CT, May 12

Gov. Bill Lee’s coronavirus press briefing is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.

Watch below:


 

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Tennessee adds 567 cases, 13 deaths

2:16 PM CT, May 12

Tennessee has surpassed 16,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

According to Department of Health data, the state added 567 confirmed cases and 13 deaths since yesterday’s update. That brings the total to 16,111 cases and 264 deaths.

The agency originally reported 14 new deaths, putting the total number at 265, but two hours after the 2 p.m. update, the agency said on Twitter that soon after the update it was determined that one death reported in Hamilton County was not actually a Tennessee resident.

Statewide 283,924 have been tested, an increase of 10,647 since yesterday. More than 8,000 people -- 8,336 -- are considered officially recovered from the disease, while 1,363 were ever hospitalized.

The Department of Health reports 3,429 cases and 73 deaths in Shelby County, up from the 3,421 cases and 72 deaths the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier today.

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reports 3,785 cases and 37 deaths in Davidson County.

Correction: The original headline and post reported 14 new deaths and 265 total deaths, based on Department of Health data. The Department of Health revised that number later to 13 new deaths and 264 total deaths.

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Mississippi adds 234 cases, 22 deaths

1:55 PM CT, May 12

Mississippi has 234 more confirmed coronavirus cases and 22 more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Seven of the new reported deaths were identified from death certificates between April 25 and May 3.

That brings the total to 9,908 confirmed cases and 457 deaths. Statewide, 96,426 tests have been administered.

DeSoto County has 346 confirmed cases and five deaths.

Marshall County has 58 confirmed cases and two deaths.

Through May 3, 6,268 people are considered officially recovered from the disease.

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Officials address expanding testing and voting in a pandemic

12:23 PM CT, May 12

This COVID-19 Joint Task Force meeting featured the Church Health Center on community testing and Linda Phillips, elections administrator on voting in a pandemic.

Two-thousand, or 57% of cases, have recovered from coronavirus, in Shelby County.

Jenny Bartlett-Prescott, COO of Church Health, said they are working with clinics on community testing. The goal is access to testing is to go where need is greatest. 

”We saw this as an access to health care issue,” she said.

Prescott said they are looking for “equity in access” to testing. In the next phase, they will be focused on increasing those who take the test. There are 7,800 tests a week, but we are only using about 60% of them.

All of the community test sites are free, people won’t be asked for payment or get a bill.

They are working on increasing drop-by testing without an appointment. They are still working on that to be able to get an appointment on the spot.

They also want to increase evening and weekend access to testing.

Beyond that issue is getting access to tests where people go for other health needs -- like pharmacies. They also want to get outpatient clinics involved in testing -- primary care doctors, as well as minor medical care centers. Baptist Minor Medical centers are offering testing.

Phillips, Shelby County Elections administrator, outlined qualifications to vote absentee by mail in Tennessee. You have to have a reason as things stand now. There is a one-page form to request an absentee ballot available on shelbyvote.com.

She said since the Election Commission began taking applications for mail-in absentees on May 8, they have received 50 applications so far. August elections normally have about 2,000 vote absentee. She expects more this time around.

Phillips said expanding voting by mail is for the Legislature or for the courts. Two lawsuits to expand mail in absentee have been filed so far.

She said on a good day, existing election scanners for mail-in ballots all working can scan 22,000 in a single day. They should be able to do 150,000 with new voting machines, which come with new scanners.

Phillips said new equipment makes it much easier to process ballots for those who want to vote mail-in.

On sharing names and addresses with police, Director Alisa Haushalter said the Shelby County Health Department has the authority to exercise judgment to protect the health of the public. The state health department agreement is with Shelby County 911 and the police agreement is with 911. Haushalter said they initially didn’t share names, just addresses. The warning to police via dispatch is that they need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Haushalter said the state released more information, including names.

Haushalter said the local health department has not shared directly with police and fire. It’s with 911. Police and fire do not have access to raw information. Again, she said the state shares more information, but she doesn’t know how it’s shared. It could include sharing with prisons and detention centers.

She said examination of charts of prisoners and detainees who tested positive for coronavirus is ongoing. They might have some further word on what the charts showed especially with those listed as asymptomatic before they tested positive. She will be at County Commission tomorrow during committee sessions.

Haushalter said antibody testing has a high number of false positives and those tests need a lot of work to make them more accurate. While people have antibodies, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are immune. Saying those workers can go back into the workforce may be a misconception.

She said test results are coming back quicker ... sometimes less than 24 hours.

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State leaders grapple with use of federal COVID funds

11:47 AM CT, May 12

Gov. Bill Lee wants federal funds to go toward the unemployed, closed businesses and “backfilling” lost revenue. But federal rules don’t allow the funds to go toward filling holes in the budget caused by the COVID-19 crisis.

The governor and Butch Eley, commissioner of Finance and Administration, believe a large portion of the $2.6 billion expected to flow to Tennessee’s coffers from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act should go to help bolster the unemployment insurance trust fund, which had $1.2 billion at the outset of the crisis.

Eley warned if the fund drops below $1 billion, the state might be forced to raise the business tax used to fund the program. In fact, Lee and Eley said the entire fund could be drained if unemployment continues at the current rate, with some 433,000 people filing claims.

Tennessee already is facing a nearly $700 million shortfall in tax revenues for April, largely because of an extension for filing taxes. Eley said Congress is considering changing the rules to allow states to use the CARES Act funds to offset revenue shortfalls. The governor suggested some of the funds be set aside in case the state is allowed to “backfill” revenue shortfalls. But if the state uses the money incorrectly, the U.S. Treasury Department could force it to repay some of the funds.

 

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MPD recruit tests positive for COVID-19, 27 others quarantined

11:19 AM CT, May 12

A recruit at the Memphis Police Department academy has tested positive for COVID-19 and 27 other recruits have been quarantined.

The recruit told MPD officials on April 29 that they had been possibly exposed to the coronavirus, said MPD spokeswoman Lt. Karen Rudolph in an email on Tuesday, May 12.

Rudolph said the recruit was removed from training after telling officials and was tested.

There are a total of 56 recruits in the training class that began on Feb. 15 and is slated to end on July 23. The class is separated into two groups of 28, Rudolph said.

“Only one group was involved. That group is also divided into two groups of nine and one group of 10,” Rudolph said.

She said on March 26, the police academy implemented a COVID-19 policy. The policy requires recruits to be screened daily and to have their temperatures checked. They are practicing social distancing and are required to wear mask.

The recruits quarantined have been tested and their results are pending, Rudolph said.

This is the first recruit to test positive at the police academy. No police instructors at the academy have tested positive and training is ongoing, Rudolph said.

To date, 31 Memphis police officers have tested positive for coronavirus and 269 have returned to work after being quarantined.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has 28 recruits in their academy class and they all were given iPads to do their classroom training remotely. Now the recruits are doing their 5-week firearms training at their academy.

“They are spread far apart in order to practice social distancing,” John Morris, a spokesman for SCSO.

The Sheriff’s office said on Friday, May 8 that the current number of employees who tested positive for the virus were 42 corrections deputies and four deputies. Two employees were in the hospital and 18 recovered.

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Watch today’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing

12:00 PM CT, May 12

Today’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing is scheduled for noon and is set to feature Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter.

Watch below:

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Local and state coronavirus cases, tests and recoveries

10:03 AM CT, May 12

 

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How COVID-19 cases are growing locally and statewide

10:03 AM CT, May 12

 

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Shelby County reports 106 new cases as testing hits 1,600

10:06 AM CT, May 12

Shelby County confirmed 106 new cases Tuesday as testing numbers were at 1,667, according to the Shelby County Health Department. 

The positivity rate of those tests reported Tuesday was 6.4%.

The number of total reported cases in Shelby County is now 3,421. In Shelby County, a total of 43,906 tests were reported, with a 7.8% positivity rate.

A total of 1,959 people are classified as recovered from the coronavirus in Shelby County.

Shelby County reported four deaths from the virus Tuesday. The total is now 72. 

Statewide, there are 15,544 cases with 251 deaths and 8,038 recoveries, as of Monday, according to Tennessee Department of Health.

In Tennessee, the total number of tests taken is 273,277 with a 5.7% positive rate.

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Pandemic dumps state revenue into $700M hole

9:43 AM CT, May 12

Tennessee’s revenue plummeted in April, leaving a $693.8 million deficit in the state budget, according to Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley.

Overall state revenues for April dipped to $1.3 billion, down nearly 40% from last year, the state said in a Tuesday, May 12, 2020 release.

“The signs of economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic have begun to appear in Tennessee’s April tax receipts,” Eley said in a statement. “April sales tax revenues, reflecting March taxable sales activity, were weakened as the state began to withdraw from its usual patterns of consumer spending by mid-month.”

Franchise and excise tax receipts, along with Hall income and business taxes were also “notably” reduced because of filing extensions that will allow individuals and businesses to report their taxable activity later in the year, Eley said.

“It has been 10 years since an economic downturn has impacted state revenues. The state’s large monthly revenue surpluses built up throughout the beginning of the year will now be tested as the pandemic’s impact begins to erase those gains. Yet, we remain committed to keeping the state’s budget in balance despite the current challenges,” he added.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue extended the due date for certain taxes on April 6, 2020 and can be found on its website.

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