Coronavirus live blog, May 19: Officials encourage wearing of masks

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 24, 2020 5:11 PM CT | Published: May 19, 2020 8:56 AM CT

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do

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
  • Wear a mask when you are out in public
  • 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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May 19, 2020

Tennessee adds 367 cases, 4 deaths

3:24 PM CT, May 19

Tennessee has 367 more confirmed coronavirus cases and four more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Department of Health.

That brings the total to 18,378 cases and 305 deaths. Nearly 1,500 people (1,498) have ever been hospitalized for the disease and 10,969 are considered recovered, officially.

And 8,695 tests have been administered since yesterday’s update, bringing the total number of tests to 346,123.

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Mississippi adds 272 cases, 27 deaths

1:08 PM CT, May 19

Mississippi has 272 more confirmed coronavirus cases and 27 more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the state’s Department of Health.

That brings the total to 11,704 cases and 554 deaths.

Statewide, 117,760 tests have been performed. Through May 17, 7,681 people are considered presumed recovered from the disease.

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Health Dept.: Masks required for employees, encouraged for customers

12:15 PM CT, May 19

Shelby County Health Department health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said he has received many questions about face coverings. They are required for employees and strongly encouraged for customers. It also gives businesses the right to force customers to wear masks.

Safety recommendations for individuals in the health directive are not a requirement, but safety measures for businesses are required. Recommendations say “should” in the directive, according to Randolph.

Director Alisa Haushalter said people should wear masks whenever they are around people not from the same household.

”We must create an environment where masks are the norm,” she said.

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Governor sends $10M grant to rural hospitals

11:44 AM CT, May 19

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday, May 19, 2020, the final distribution of $10 million in Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants to support smaller hospitals that are facing financial strain due to the ongoing response to COVID-19.

Hospitals resume elective surgeries with long list of regulations

“Our small and rural hospitals play a critical role in their communities, providing both necessary care to patients and good-paying jobs to residents, and we’re proud to support these hospitals through such unprecedented times,” said Gov. Lee. “We’ll continue to work with hospitals across our state and the federal government to ensure hospitals have the resources they need to maintain operations and serve their communities well.”

<strong>Bill Lee</strong>

Bill Lee

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Watch today’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing

12:00 PM CT, May 19

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

Watch below:

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Graceland hotel trims staff by 101

10:11 AM CT, May 19

The Guesthouse at Graceland, a 450-room resort hotel that adjoins the Elvis Presley home and entertainment complex, has laid off 101 workers who had been on temporary furlough since mid-March because of COVID-19.

The hotel at 3600 Elvis Presley Blvd. in Whitehaven filed a notice with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Friday, May 15.

It said the company originally believed furloughs would last 60-90 days, but business hasn’t rebounded as quickly as hoped. The hotel said it would seek to rehire laid-off workers as business needs dictate.

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Shelby County reports 116 new cases, performs 2,615 tests

10:12 AM CT, May 19

The Shelby County Health Department reported 116 new cases of coronavirus Tuesday for a total of 3,877 cases during the pandemic. The increase is the largest since April 18.

Shelby County said 2,615 people were tested Monday. The number of tests surpasses Shelby County’s goal of 2,400 tests per day. The daily positivity rate Monday was 4.4%.

To date, 54,842 tests have been administered in Shelby County, according to Shelby County Health Department. The overall positivity rate in Shelby County continues to decline and is slightly less than 7.1%. 

Shelby County Health Department reported 2,537 people have recovered. Three new deaths were reported for a total of 88.

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Job portal launched for 141 new Health Department positions

8:49 AM CT, May 19

Shelby County government has launched a portal for the 141 new positions being hired as part of the Shelby County Health Department’s expansion, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new positions include administrative staff, strike teams, epidemiologists, nurses, case investigators, enforcement and compliance investigators, data entry and training personnel and testing teams.

People interested in the jobs can apply at or SCG COVID-19 Careers.

“In preparation for the COVID-19 response ramp up, the human resources department has partnered closely with the health department to identify recruitment sources, establish interview teams, and develop a project plan to ensure effective and efficient staffing of these critical positions,” said Shelby County Human Resources Administrator Steven Massie, in a statement.

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Local and state coronavirus cases, tests and recoveries

10:09 AM CT, May 19



How cases are growing in Shelby County and Tennessee

10:07 AM CT, May 19


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BlueCross waiving primary, behavioral costs for Medicare Advantage members

8:13 AM CT, May 19

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is waiving primary, behavioral costs for Medicare Advantage members for in-network in-person and virtual primary care visits through Sept. 30. 

“Many Tennessee seniors may have been following safety protocols and postponing health care visits over the past few months,” said Todd Ray, senior vice president and general manager of senior products, in a statement. “We hope this enhanced coverage will bring peace of mind, help remove barriers and encourage people to seek the routine and preventive care they need.”


May 18, 2020

Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund awards $76,500

2:45 PM CT, May 18

The Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund has distributed $76,500 in its ninth round of grants, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis announced.

The seven grants bring the total amount of funds granted to $1.9 million, since March 16. Individuals, businesses and foundations have donated more than $3 million to the fund. The fund’s purpose is to support organizations impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest grants are as follows:

  • Friends for Life: $20,000 to provide full-service food delivery and other support for its 3,000 clients 
  • I Am My Sister’s Keeper: $1,000 to provide support to single mothers in crisis during the COVID-19 outbreak 
  • Just City: $25,000 to provide bail of $5,000 or less to inmates at 201 Poplar and Jail East 
  • Latino Memphis: $15,000 to work within its network to share information and provide direct support related to the COVID-19 outbreak 
  • Memphis Athletic Ministries: $5,000 to host weekly food drives in partnership with the Mid-South Food Bank to aid families suffering from food insecurity 
  • Momentum Nonprofit Partners: $8,000 to obtain and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to area nonprofits
  • Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition: $2,500 to provide direct assistance to its refugee clients in Memphis and West Tennessee 

To learn more about the fund or to donate, visit


SCS: Hybrid model likely for first semester of 2020-21 school year

3:50 PM CT, May 18

Because of the pandemic, it is likely that a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning will be necessary during the first semester of the 2020-21 school year, Shelby County Schools superintendent Joris M. Ray announced Monday, May 18.

Ray said the district would likely be able to make that determination by the first part of July.

Hybrid options include either a complete or near complete return to buildings while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines; staggered schedules to reduce the number of people in school buildings at any given time and complete or near complete online learning.

“As we enter the traditional last week of school, we are setting sights on a return in the fall that will be unlike any (other) first day of school,” he said. 

According to district officials, its S.A.F.E. (Strategic Action for Flexible Education) planning team has been meeting since the coronavirus pandemic began to assess short-term and long-term plans for academic and operational support functions.

The district has also established a Digital Advisory Committee, to secure funding and build the timeline for a plan that, among other options being considered, could provide a new device and internet access for every student and teacher. Cost estimates for the various plans, which include recurring expenses, range from $24 million to $91 million, according to the district.

To assist with long-term, re-entry planning is a new task force composed of those with education, health care, faith-based, government and business expertise. 

The task force’s mission is to review and support the following strategic priorities in reopening the schools:

  1. Re-entry protocols for students, teachers and staff (social distancing, face coverings.)
  2. Transportation, meals and logistical challenges
  3. Interventions to address lost instruction (such as extending the school year, extending the school day, Saturday school)
  4. Social emotional learning support
  5. Communicating plans to all stakeholders

The task force members are as follows:

  • Miska Clay-Bibbs – Chair, Shelby County Board of Education
  • Mark Billingsley – Chair, Shelby County Commission
  • DaCharius Brooks – Student, East High School
  • Michalyn Easter-Thomas – SCS Educator and Member, Memphis City Council
  • Alisa Haushalter – Director, Shelby County Health Department
  • Steevon Hunter – Principal, Kirby High School
  • Tom Marino – Executive Director, The Poplar Foundation
  • Joann Massey – Parent, White Station High School
  • Keith Norman – Vice President of Government Affairs, Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corp.
  • Beverly Robertson – President, Greater Memphis Chamber
  • Patrice Jordan Robinson – Chair, Memphis City Council
  • Danette Stokes – Teacher, Robert R. Church Elementary 
  • Gabriela Toro – Principal, Newcomer International Center
  • Dr. Jeff Warren – Physician and Member, Memphis City Council
  • Kevin B. Willis, Sr. – Founder and Pastor, New Life of Memphis

The district will later announce dates for a series of in-person and online community listening sessions.



coronavirus COVID-19

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