State basketball tournaments canceled for coronavirus

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 13, 2020 9:02 AM CT | Published: March 12, 2020 8:26 AM 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.

Click here to view our full coronavirus coverage with Day 1 and Day 2 and Day 3 of our live blog.

To get breaking news delivered directly to your inbox when it happens, opt in to our Breaking News updates here.

Confirmed cases
Shelby County


PGA Tour cancels Players, upcoming tournaments

9:53 PM CT, March 12

The PGA Tour on Thursday night canceled The Players Championship underway at TPC Sawgrass in Florida and upcoming events across all of its tours, issuing this statement:

“It is with regret that we are announcing the cancellation of THE PLAYERS Championship.

We have also decided to cancel all PGA TOUR events — across all of our Tours — in the coming weeks, through the Valero Texas Open. 

“We have pledged from the start to be responsible, thoughtful and transparent with our decision process. We did everything possible to create a safe environment for our players in order to continue the event throughout the weekend, and we were endeavoring to give our fans a much-needed respite from the current climate. But at this point — and as the situation continues to rapidly change — the right thing to do for our players and our fans is to pause.

“We will be prepared to answer additional questions on Friday at 8 a.m.”


Lack of passengers hits Memphis airport

8:32 PM CT, March 12

Memphis International Airport is temporarily closing two restaurants and a security checkpoint because of lack of passengers due to the coronavirus.

The airport announced Thursday night that the C Checkpoint, Maggie O’Shea’s and Moe’s would temporary close starting Friday because passenger numbers have fallen significantly below projections during an expected spring break peak time.

An airport statement said there hadn’t been any flight cancellations yet, and it didn’t have numbers on the passenger shortfall.

Like many other airports around the nation, Memphis International Airport (MEM) is experiencing a reduction in passenger traffic this week as concerns about the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus) have increased. While specific numbers are not yet available, MEM expects that passenger numbers will be significantly below previous projections for Spring Break,” the airport said.

Officials had previously anticipated a spring break peak March 12-15 as an estimated 33,600 people passed through security checkpoints. The numbers were Transportation Security Administration estimates based on airline ticketing data.

However, the numbers didn’t reflect travelers re-booking or canceling travel, taking advantage of airline fee waivers because of the virus.

The temporarily closure of C Checkpoint, one of two at the airport, is intended to make more efficient use of TSA personnel.

“Beginning Friday, March 13 all checkpoint operations will take place through the B Checkpoint, which has the largest capacity and the most lanes. TSA has indicated that this is the best allocation of their resources and most efficient way of managing checkpoint operations. The C Checkpoint will be available for reactivation if necessary,” the airport said.

Maggie O’Shea’s is in the B Ticketing Lobby, and Moe’s is in the C Concourse.

Airport officials advised travelers to check with airlines to make sure flights are still operating as scheduled.


TSSAA suspends state tournament play

7:58 PM CT, March 12

The TSSAA announced late Thursday night that it was suspending the Division 1 girls state tournament and would not play the boys tournament as scheduled next week.

Earlier in the day, the state’s governing body for high school athletics said it planned to continue both events but with attendance being limited to just team parties, families and media. The TSSAA’s release cited the decisions to cancel the NCAA Tournament and suspend play in various pro leagues as a contributing factor to the decision, along with the closures of universities and school systems around the state. 

Whether the tournaments will be rescheduled depends on the length of the suspension and availability of facilities, the TSSAA said in its release.

Whitehaven and Arlington were each scheduled to play in semifinal games Friday at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro. Whitehaven was also set to play in the boys tournament along with Houston, Wooddale, BTW and MAHS.

As of late Wednesday, there was no word on if the state was planning to suspend spring sports such as baseball, softball, track, tennis and boys soccer. Several Memphis-area private schools, along with the Shelby County School system, announced Thursday there wouldn’t be any athletic competition until March 30 at the earliest.

- John Varlas


SCS addressing food distribution during hiatus

6:42 PM CT, March 12

Shelby County Schools said Thursday, March 12, it is committed to addressing food insecurity and ensuring all students continue to receive meals while the district is closed.

“SCS has developed a preliminary food distribution strategy that involves the least-risky exposure for our students and families,” SCS announced Thursday. “Our Nutrition Services Center team will provide take-away lunches for students between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at multiple locations throughout the county beginning Monday, March 23 through Friday, March 27.”

The district said specific pick-up locations and community pantry partnerships will be announced in the coming days.


Democratic caucuses to teleconference, not meet

6:36 PM CT, March 12

Coronavirus practices have now affected the land where the handshake is king – politics.

Democrats who were to caucus March 21 to complete the two-step process of selecting delegates to their summer national convention based on the results from the Super Tuesday primary voting will instead teleconference.

The Tennessee Democratic Party announced the changes Thursday evening.

Democrats in every county held local conventions Saturday, March 7, to start the process. The caucuses on March 21 are by congressional districts -- one session for each of the state’s nine congressional districts to decide who will be the delegates for former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

By the unofficial vote count in the 9th Congressional District that covers most of Shelby County, Biden gets four delegates, Sanders two and Bloomberg one.

Caucuses would have met at Kirby High School to decide who those delegates will be from a list of possible choices approved by each of the campaigns. Now the groups will instead do it by teleconference – no hand sanitizer and no handshakes.


County government urges distance, Harris travels to Ghana

5:58 PM CT, March 12

Shelby County government remains open for business, but officials really want the public to interact from a distance.

The County Commission is strongly encouraging the public not to attend the committee meetings Wednesday, March 18, or the full commission meeting Monday, March 23.

The committee meetings will be held in the first-floor chambers at the Vasco A. Smith Jr. County Administration Building instead of in the sixth-floor committee room so that attendees can exercise social distancing.

The committee meetings and the full commission meetings can be accessed online at or heard on WQOX 88.5 FM.

Citizens can email a public comment or a question to

“We want to protect our employees, we want to protect the general public,” Commission Chairman Mark Billingsley said.

Meanwhile, County Mayor Lee Harris has traveled to Ghana as part of the Memphis in May contingent.

“County government is continuing in his absence. His staff is doing a very good job, and he’s on important business right now,” Billingsley said.

He is not worried about travel problems created by the coronavirus.

“We will find a way to get Mayor Harris back, I assure you,” Billingsley said.

Also, county divisions and other offices have been direct to cancel non-essential, in-person meetings until further notice and to conduct phone, video or online transactions whenever possible. However, in-person assistance for mental health clients and rape crisis victims will continue.

In-person visits for Correctional Center inmates and jail detainees have been canceled and the fees for phone calls and video chats will be waived.


Second local confirmed case knew first, health department says

5:01 PM CT, March 12

The second confirmed COVID-19 case in Shelby County is someone who knew the first person, Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said at a Thursday afternoon update.

The second person, confirmed Thursday, was tested and confirmed by the state. That person and the first person had been in New Orleans together for Mardi Gras, Haushalter said.

The first person remains hospitalized. The second is in isolation at home.

This story will be updated.


Catholic Diocese of Memphis extends spring break for schools

4:25 PM CT, March 12

The Catholic Diocese of Memphis will extend spring break five days (March 16-20) for students in its Shelby County schools.

Faculty and school staff will report to work next week to prepare a contingency plan in case classroom instruction needs to continue remotely.

An announcement on the status for the week of March 23 will be posted at noon Thursday, March 19.

Effective Friday, March 13, all athletic and other extracurricular activities are suspended for the duration of the following week. Athletic and extracurricular activities will resume when classroom instruction resumes.

Affected schools include Holy Rosary, Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Incarnation, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Ann, St. Benedict, St. Francis, St Louis and St. Paul.


Friday Night Stripes among cancellations by U of M

3:57 PM CT, March 12

The University of Memphis has canceled all public spring football events including Friday Night Stripes, the annual spring game.

Outside of the spring game, the Tigers scheduled 15 spring practices, a scrimmage in Nashville at Father Ryan High School, Darrell Henderson Bowling Event and the DeAngelo Williams Cornhole Tournament. Each event was the first under first-year head coach Ryan Silverfield.

No makeup dates for the canceled events have been announced or even hinted at by the Memphis administration. Other football programs have gone as far as canceling recruiting visits to their respective schools.

The spring football game announcement came after the American Athletic Conference suspended the remainder of the spring athletic competition and the AAC Basketball Tournament.


Southwest to extend spring break

3:48 PM CT, March 12

Southwest Tennessee Community College is extending its spring break for students and faculty through Saturday, March 21.

All classes will resume online March 23 through April 5. Onsite classes are scheduled to restart Monday, April 6.



City of Memphis gives coronavirus update

3:35 PM CT, March 12

All city-run facilities are currently open and active, but the city could elect to cancel events or close facilities in the future.

The city’s decision to do so will be based on evidence of community transmission of the coronavirus, said Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen, in a statement.

“In the meantime, and out of an abundance of caution, we are continuing to recommend citizens follow CDC guidelines; if you’re 60 or older and/or have underlying serious health conditions, we urge you to avoid large gatherings and stay home if you can,” his statement continued.

People who need to do business with the city, such as pay taxes or fines, are asked to do so via mail or online, rather than in person. Residents can pay taxes online here.

Those without access to a computer or smartphone are asked to not come to City Hall, but instead call (901) 636-6657 to make arrangements.

For more information, residents can call 311.


NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments canceled

3:27 PM CT, March 12

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were canceled Thursday, the latest entity to yield to the ongoing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision came during on a day when major conferences, including the American Athletic Conference and the SEC, canceled their postseason tournaments. The decision by the NCAA was suspected after some major schools suspended athletic travel.

“Today, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships,” the NCAA announced Thursday afternoon. “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”


AAC suspends spring athletics competition

3:20 PM CT, March 12

All spring athletic competition has been suspended American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco announced Thursday afternoon, as the conference tries to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The announcement came after the cancellation of the AAC Basketball Tournament Thursday morning. Memphis was scheduled to play East Carolina in the first round of the tournament.

And Thursday afternoon, the NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournament.

Memphis baseball was on the road to take on Indiana for a two-game series that will not be played. Softball, women’s soccer, track and field, tennis and golf will be the sports affected as well.

It’s currently unclear if the Tigers will have to cancel spring football and their annual Friday Night Stripes spring game. According to an AAC official, practice policies are determined by the individual schools and Memphis has yet to cancel anything. Practice was scheduled to start March 17 while the spring game falls on April 17.


Department of Correction suspends prison visits

3:19 PM CT, March 12

The Tennessee Department of Correction announced Thursday, March 12 it has suspended all prison visitations.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of the health and wellness of what we consider a vulnerable population, we have suspended visitation at all TDOC prisons until further notice,” the agency said in a release.

“We are exploring alternative opportunities for our inmates to maintain communication with family and friends. Volunteer services will be suspended as well. We will conduct non-invasive screening onsite for staff entering our facilities.” 

Prisoners who are on community supervision will be contacted by their probation/parole officer for reporting guidelines.

TDOC operates one facility in Shelby County, the Mark Luttrell Transition Center at 6000 State Road.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail at 201 Poplar, Jail East, the women’s jail and juvenile court, offers video visitation for inmates.

TDOC said the suspended visitation is a “fluid situation” that the agency will re-evaluate daily.


St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Beale rescheduled

3:12 PM CT, March 12

The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Beale Street has been postponed until April 11 “out of an abundance of caution,” by the Beale Street Merchants and Beale Street Management.

“We believe this delay will allow all of our parade guests to enjoy the celebratory atmosphere of the event, without the added health concerns of the current climate,” said a statement sent out by Savanna MacArthur, events and operations coordinator for the Beale Street Merchants Association.

The announcement added that Beale Street and Downtown Memphis are open for business. “For the time being, we will just be welcoming you with an elbow bump or jazz hands, rather than a handshake or hug!”

The St. Patrick’s Day parade is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. April 11. 


Tennessee Department of Health confirms 2nd Shelby County case

2:10 PM CT, March 12

The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed the second coronavirus case in Shelby County on Thursday, March 12. The statewide total is now 18.

The confirmed case count is eight cases in Williamson County, six cases in Davidson County, two cases in Shelby County, one case in Knox County and one case in Sullivan County.




LeMoyne-Owen to extend spring break

2:05 PM CT, March 12

LeMoyne-Owen College will extend its spring break, which begins Friday, March 13.

Classes for students will resume Monday, March 30, while faculty and staff will return Monday, March 23.

Students who live on campus and who do not have alternative housing options are allowed to remain on campus. Those with other housing options are encouraged to leave campus.

The extended spring break will allow the college to clean dorms, classrooms and common areas, as well as determine its next steps for teaching, learning and campus activities.



Coffee Xpo postponed

2:01 PM CT, March 12

The Grind City Coffee Xpo scheduled for Saturday, March 14, at the Pipkin Center has been postponed, as has the latte art contest that was to take place March 12 at Puck Food Hall.

Tickets already purchased for the event will be honored at the rescheduled date, which is not yet known.


Visits to Capitol discouraged

1:30 PM CT, March 12

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton announced Thursday they want to cut down on the number of visitors to the Capitol complex following Gov. Bill Lee’s declaration of emergency due to the existence of COVID-19 in Tennessee:

<strong>Randy McNally</strong>

Randy McNally

“The General Assembly is encouraging groups who have planned non-essential events and activities in and around the Cordell Hull Building and Capitol to consider rescheduling or postponing. We will continue with the business for which we have been elected and for which we are constitutionally bound. But we will do so with extreme caution and in the public health’s best interest. We will continue to monitor the spread of the virus and keep in consultation with Governor Lee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Our website will remain online and meetings will continue to be streamed and televised. The people of Tennessee will still have access to the work they have elected us to do. We will continue to take additional action as needed.”


BlueCross offers free telehealth visits for members

1:48 PM CT, March 12

BlueCross will offer telehealth visits at no cost to members in eligible health plans now through April 30.

“We know our members are concerned and taking extra precautions, so we want to offer more options for seeking care when they need it,” said Kelly Paulk, vice president of product strategy and individual markets. “They can use telehealth services for many health concerns, 24/7 and from the comfort of their home or workplace.”

The benefit is available to BlueCross members with Medicare plans, Individual/Marketplace plans and fully insured employer-based plans. Members can call the Member Service number on the back of their BlueCross ID card to find out if they’re eligible.

Members with the telehealth benefit can access PhysicianNow powered by MDLive by phone, online video chat or through the MyBlueTN mobile app. First-time users need to register for an account on


901 FC games postponed after USL announcement

1:00 PM CT, March 12

The United Soccer League announced Thursday that is suspending all games for at least the next 30 days. The move was voted on after during a meeting of the league’s owners in response to the growing threat of COVID-19 in the United States.

“It was very clear from our owners that the health and safety of players, fans and staff was their priority,” said Alec Papadakis, the league’s CEO. “In consultation with local, state and national health authorities, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Homeland Security, we have temporarily suspended match play for a minimum of 30 days.”

Memphis 901 FC was scheduled to play its second match of the season Saturday against St. Louis. The league directed fans to monitor its website ( for updates and further information.

In a tweet, Craig Unger, 901 FC president said: “We support the USL’s decision to suspend play for a minimum of 30 days – prioritizing the health and safety of fans, players and staff. We will provide additional updates to our ticket holders and fans as it becomes available. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding.”

Principal owner Peter Freund said: “We’re taking our lead from MLS.”

While a delay in the Memphis Redbirds' season could mean losing many games off a home schedule of more than 70 games, he said he would expect Memphis 901 FC to be able to reschedule two or three lost home games later in the season.

”The soccer is a little bit easier,” Freund said.


Changes to city court

1:01 PM CT, March 12

Memphis City Court Clerk Myron Lowery has announced several changes to city court amid concerns over coronavirus, including excusing anyone 60 or older from court dates and altering the dress code to allow face masks or protective goggles in court.

“The safety and health of the city courts personnel is extremely important, and the Clerk and the Judges want to ensure the appropriate steps are taken to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other similar risks,” Deputy Chief Court Clerk Walter Person said in an email.

The changes, among modifications being discussed throughout the local criminal justice system, were emailed to the clerk’s staff and the media Thursday, March 12.

Read more


Your noon national novel coronavirus update

12:56 PM CT, March 12

It’s a little after noon in Memphis. Below is what some national (and international) outlets are reporting about the coronavirus.

CNN: Two major cruise lines are stopping all of their cruises globally. 

New York Times: California has banned gatherings with more than 250 people, through the end of March. 

The Guardian: Detroit is stopping water cut-offs due to unpaid bills, temporarily. 


Calvary Waffle Shop closes early for the year

12:50 PM CT, March 12

Calvary Waffle Shop will close for the year after lunch is over Thursday.

“We are so sad,” said Robyn Banks, director of communications. “It’s obviously because of the ongoing local and global concerns of COVID-19.”

The Calvary Episcopal Church Lenten Preaching Series and Waffle Shop is a Lent tradition that started in 1928. Guest speakers offer inspiration speeches at lunch beginning the day after ash Wednesday and continue on weekdays through the Thursday after Palm Sunday.

Volunteers staff the kitchen, which serves waffles, fish pudding, and a popular salad plate with tomato aspic, among other items. This year it would’ve continued through April 3, but for the health of the volunteers and the community, Banks said, the decision was made to shut it down early.

“We think we’ll be back strong as ever in 2021,” she said. “We’re encouraging people to go to our website and listen to people who have already spoken here this year and also listen to speakers from the past.”

The website is


Mid-South Food Bank prepares 14-day food boxes

12:50 PM CT, March 12

The Mid-South Food Bank is preparing 14-day food boxes to help low-income and vulnerable area residents weather COVID-19.

“We are treating this situation by being prepared to help those in need to have food so they can stay safe at home,” said Cathy Pope, Mid-South Food Bank president & CEO. “The population we serve typically does not have the resources to keep large reserves of food on hand in the event of school or work closures or other service disruptions.”

The food boxes will be available through Mid-South Food Bank’s network of partner agencies in their service area in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and Crittenden County, Arkansas. 

The Food Bank is asking for help, including food and monetary donations and for volunteers to help pack the 14-day food boxes.

Each box will contain about 35 pounds of nonperishable canned and packaged food. Pope said no one has requested the boxes yet, but the Food Bank wants to be ready in the event there is a need.

“We’ve seen a ‘containment zone' declared in New York, so we know isolation and quarantine are strategies we could see here if the virus moves into our area in greater numbers. We want to be ready,” Pope said.

To make an online donation, go to and sign up for a volunteer shift, go to


Soulsville postponing events

12:44 PM CT, March 12

The Soulsville Music Foundation has announced it will postpone a slate of community events, in response to concern regarding the potential spread of COVID-19.

“[Our] ‘Businesswomen of Memphis Music’ panel (Thursday), the ‘Funky Chicken’ listening party at Crosstown on the 18th, and the Betty Davis film screening on the 23rd are being postponed until further notice out of concern for public health safety regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus,” Soulsville Foundation communications director Tim Sampson said.

“The museum itself will remain open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday, until further notice.”


Cher concert tour canceled, Nile Rodgers tweets

12:43 PM CT, March 12

After extending their tour to include a Monday, March 16, date at the FedExForum in Memphis, a prominent musician on Cher’s “Here We Go Again” tour announced they’ve been asked to return home.

“This is the rebound effect of us playing at the same venue today that Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus (in) yesterday,” Nile Rodgers said in a video uploaded to Twitter.

Rodgers, who is famous for leading popular 1970s disco band Chic, has joined the band in opening for Cher on the tour.

“They’ve closed down our arena, and they have cancelled the rest of the Cher tour. Now, we’re on a plane flying home, and we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re just trying to be positive, stay safe and do the right thing.” Rodgers said.

FedEx Forum officials have not confirmed the status of the concert. A spokesperson with the arena said they will update fans with any changes to their scheduled events, following a conference call with event promoters on Thursday afternoon. 


Methodist LeBonheur implements screening

12:30 PM CT, March 12

Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare has implemented system-wide screening for its children and adult hospitals. Rooms will not be allowed to have more than two visitors at a time and points of access are limited at this time. The hospital has implemented screening points throughout its hospitals.


TSSAA limits seating for rest of state basketball tournament

12:30 PM CT, March 12

MURFREESBORO--In response to growing concerns regarding COVID-19, the TSSAA announced seating restrictions for the remainder of this week’s Division 1 girls state basketball tournament and next week’s boys event.

Beginning with Friday’s semifinals, seating inside the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro will be limited to “the team party (23-person maximum), their immediate families and school administrators of the qualifying schools … school administrators will be required to provide a list of those persons meeting the qualification for entry.”

General fans will not be permitted to attend, nor will cheerleaders, bands or mascots. Media members will be allowed to cover the tournaments.

The state’s governing board for high school athletics urged those that will be allowed inside the Murphy Center to take advantage of the available space and not gather in crowds.

“We understand and regret the hardship these limitations will create for many,” the state’s governing body for high school athletics said in a statement. “However, the health and safety of our student-athletes is paramount. We will continue to monitor the situation and we are hopeful that additional limitations will not be necessary.”


Memphis mosques suspending classes, programs, workshops

12:12 PM CT, March 12

Memphis Islamic Center and Midtown Mosque announced they are suspending all on-site classes, programs and workshops until further notice as they take more precautions against the coronavirus.

Both mosques will continue to host the five daily prayers and Jummah service, which is every Friday.

MIC also plans to implement more measures to clean the facility between prayers.

MIC’s announcement also reiterates that its attendees should avoid physical contact with one another at the mosque.

Midtown Mosque also plans to hold a community coronavirus prevention information session at 1276 Jackson Ave., located next to the mosque. 


Memphis in May plans to proceed

11:10 AM CT, March 12

With seven weeks before the scheduled start of the annual Memphis in May International Festival, festival organizers say they will host the festival, as planned.

“The health and safety of our performers, attendees, staff, and volunteers at our events are always our top priority and this year is no exception,” said Memphis in May vice president of marketing Robert Griffin.

“Along with many other events and festivals, Memphis in May is closely working with industry officials and monitoring directives from the CDC and local health officials who continue to stress that there is no threat locally, but they encourage common sense steps such as hand washing, hand sanitizers and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.”

The festival is scheduled to begin on May 1, with Beale Street Music Festival, featuring more than 60 musicians. Continuing through the entire month, the festival will also include the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and an International Salute to Ghana.

Griffin says festival leadership will continue to watch industry trends to determine how festival events will be handled. In response to the threat of outbreak, large U.S. entertainment festivals including SXSW, Coachella and Stagecoach, have announced that they will cancel operations this year.

“Information is rapidly changing during this situation, but with more than 50 days until we open our gates for Beale Street Music Festival, we will continue to monitor national guidelines,” Griffin said.

“In the meantime, we are proceeding with our plans to make this the biggest Memphis in May yet, with announcements coming soon related to our salute to Ghana that will generate even more excitement on top of sales for the Beale Street Music Festival that are on pace to exceed last year’s record-setting numbers.”


Achievement School District will follow SCS lead

12:07 PM CT, March 12

The announcement that Shelby County Schools would add another week to spring break because of COVID-19 concerns triggered the same response from the state-run Achievement School District.

Shelby County Schools will close starting Friday, March 13, and resume Monday, March 30, the week after spring break.

“We’ve been in communication this morning,” Bobby White, the founder and CEO of Frayser Community Schools said during a Thursday recording of the WKNO Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines.”

Frayser Community Schools operates three schools that are part of the ASD.

“You have to recognize that we share siblings with Shelby County Schools,” White said. “When the announcement was made by (SCS superintendent) Dr. (Joris) Ray our phones lit up with our parents saying what do we do. We were already prepared for that.”

That doesn’t mean the planning and communication stop while the students are on an extended spring break. Conversations about remote learning opportunities or teachers communicating by social media or other means with students and parents are ongoing with some issues at the outset.

“We’d love to do that,” White said of alternatives like on-line instruction. “But our resources won’t afford us the opportunity to have every student with a device to take home. Trying to work our way around that is the challenge.”

The program that airs Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. was originally planned as a discussion of charter schools in public education and County Mayor Lee Harris’s call for a new Frayser High School. Those topics were discussed later and included Shelby County Commissioner Michael Whaley, chairman of the commission’s education committee.

Whaley said county government’s larger role in the pandemic is disseminating information.

“I think the biggest thing that I hear is wanting to get all of the information. … It’s sometimes hard I think to decipher what’s true and what’s not,” he said. “The reality is that we try on every platform we can to share which includes things like washing hands, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings – not to be alarmist, but it’s just one of those things that will help prevent an outbreak of any kind.”

With that, another reminder that county government’s portal for information on COVID-19 is


Calvary cancels rest of Lenten Waffle Shop and Preaching Series

11:54 AM CT, March 12

Calvary Lenten Waffle Shop, an institution in Memphis since 1928, is canceling all lunches and speakers for the rest of the season, according to Rector Scott Walters at Calvary Episcopal Church. 

The series was to conclude April 3.

“While there’s no way to deliver tomato aspic, fish pudding or Tennessee bourbon pie digitally, remember that you can watch and listen to our Lenten Preaching Series speakers on our website or in our new podcast,” Walters said.
“And past years are available in our Lenten Preaching Series Archive. Maybe this Lenten season will be a time for you to make a practice of listening to some of the great LPS voices from years past.”

Calvary will be holding worship services on Sunday.


Governor declares state of emergency

10:20 AM CT, March 12

With fear of the coronavirus sweeping the nation, Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency Thursday, March 12, issuing an executive order to pull down more federal money to deal with the disease.

The governor also encouraged vulnerable people to stay home from places such as nursing homes.

As part of the order, the governor is seeking additional funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to “relax walls” to deal with the disease. The state already has $10 million from the Centers for Disease Control to attack the spread of the virus, and officials said much of that would be used to help hospitals use telemedicine to treat people.

Lee made the announcement in a press conference at the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the State Capitol as lawmakers held Thursday sessions upstairs.

Lee did not mention the possibility of asking the Legislature to adjourn temporarily but said his administration is speeding up work on a proposed $40.9 billion budget in case the General Assembly decides to speed up its work.


Memphis College of Art to remain open

11:24 AM CT, March 12

Memphis College of Art will remain open and day-to-day campus operations will continue.

Its Book Sale Mondays, which were open to the public, are postponed until further notice.

“With a small student body of 34 students, studio-based art classes and a final semester before closing permanently, we are hopeful that we can continue as planned,” said communications manager Marilyn B. Koester. “But the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff remains our top priority.”

Koester said the college will continue to deep clean, paying special attention to highly-trafficked areas, such as the computer labs and library.

The college is in the process of obtaining approval for online instruction, in case it becomes necessary in the future, she said. 


Burst water main causes Health Department closure

11:13 AM CT, March 12

A burst water main at the Shelby County Health Department has caused those working on the COVID-19 response to work from home or the Health Department Operations Center in the Shelby County Government East Office Complex at 1075 Mullins Station Road.

The Health Department headquarters is closed to the public as the water main is repaired.


AAC, SEC, Big Ten cancel tournaments

11:03 AM CT, March 12

The AAC Tournament is off.

And so are other conference tournaments.

“The decision was made in consultation with the Conference’s leadership in light of recent developments regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the league said in a news release. “This is a proactive decision to protect the safety, health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff and all involved with the tournament.”

The initial plan was to play NCAA postseason games inside of empty arenas where only teams, immediate family members, credentialed media and essential staff would be allowed to attend. Now, that plan has been aborted.

“We and the Dickies Arena staff have been monitoring the COVID-19 virus situation in conjunction with local health authorities,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a release Wednesday. “Our top priority is always the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, university administrators and personnel, media, event staff and fans.”

Read more. 


The Southeastern Conference announced on Thursday, March 12, the cancellation of the remainder of its 2020 Men’s Basketball Tournament.


And the Big Ten Conference announced it was canceling the remainder of its Men’s Basketball Tournament beginning Thursday, March 12. 




CBU canceling classes; moving to remote learning next week

10:57 AM CT, March 12

Christian Brothers University is canceling classes, starting Friday, March 13, through Tuesday, March 17.

On Wednesday, it will begin remote classes for all courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“We hope to resume in-person instruction on Tuesday, April 14, after the previously scheduled Easter holiday break, but we will continue to monitor the situation and keep everyone informed,” the college said in a statement.

Students who are able to do so are asked to move out of on-campus housing by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17.

“Since, at this point, we are uncertain that we will be able to return to campus following the Easter holiday break, we encourage students to take as many of their personal belongings as possible when they depart campus between now and Tuesday,” the statement said.

Students who cannot leave should apply to Residence Life to remain on campus. An email will be sent to all students in on-campus housing later today with further instructions for accessing and completing that application.

From a business standpoint, the campus will remain open. Staff and faculty with operational responsibilities will continue to report to campus as able. 

All on-campus student events are cancelled, starting Friday through April 14. 


Suburban school districts to remain open

10:48 AM CT, March 12

All six suburban school districts will not be closing additional days despite Shelby County Schools decision to close, a joint statement from the districts said Thursday.

The Shelby County Department of Health and the Tennessee Department of Education are not recommending closure at this time, the release said.

All suburban superintendents held a conference call with Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn Thursday.

The suburban districts will have school Friday. Spring break is next week.


U of M extending spring break, moving to remote learning

9:17 AM CT, March 12

The University of Memphis is extending spring break through Sunday, March 22, president M. David Rudd wrote in a letter to the campus community on Thursday, March 12. And the university will transition to remote and virtual learning for most courses and educational activities for the rest of the semester. 

U of M’s spring break is extended for one week, with classes starting back on Monday, March 23. The U of M will remain open, including campus housing and dining, because of necessity to a large number of students. The university will share specific cleaning and social distancing guidelines with students using both. Rudd said that as classroom instruction transitions to online or remote alternatives, students are encouraged to return home.

As faculty and staff return to campus on Monday, March 16, Rudd said the additional time will allow for preparation and transition to remote and virtual learning.

University-sponsored events (outside of academic instruction) with more than 150 attendees will need to be postponed, cancelled or reconfigured to minimize large gatherings. Rudd said that in cases where larger gatherings do occur, advance cleaning and other guidance will be followed. Intercollegiate athletic events are being coordinated with American Athletic Conference and NCAA guidance.


SCS closes schools, starting Friday, for 11 days

8:24 AM CT, March 12

In a “bold and preemptive move, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray, is closing schools, starting Friday, and resuming Monday, March 30, the week after spring break.

“Due to national developments and rapidly changing conditions regarding the spread of COVID-19, we feel this is the best course of action,” Ray said.“Closing schools is never a decision that we take lightly. Considering these unique circumstances, we must lead through the moment.”

During the next two weeks, the district will be able to conduct a full assessment of risks for students and staff who will be traveling over spring break and deep clean all district building.

Schools will be closed a total of 11 days, including five scheduled days for spring break March 16-20. To avoid the loss of mandatory instructional days for the year, the district will use six days reserved for inclement weather.


What does the WHO pandemic declaration mean?

10:58 AM CT, March 12

The new coronavirus outbreak is now a pandemic. So what does that mean?

“Pandemic” has nothing to do with how serious the illness is. It just means a disease is spreading widely.

The head of the World Health Organization, which made the declaration Wednesday, said the U.N. health agency is deeply concerned about the alarming levels of spread.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “We should double down and we should be more aggressive. That’s what we are saying.” The virus, which has infected more than 120,000 people around the world and killed more than 4,300.

Some questions and answers about the declaration:

What does the declaration do?

The label triggers governments to activate preparedness plans and possibly take emergency procedures to protect the public, such as more drastic travel and trade restrictions.

WHO already had declared COVID-19 an international emergency. And where the virus hasn’t yet spread, hospitals and clinics around the world have been preparing for a surge of coronavirus patients on top of the everyday illnesses they treat.

What goes into the decision?

Exactly when enough places have enough infections to declare a pandemic isn’t a black-and-white decision. But generally, the WHO looks for sustained community outbreaks on different continents.

For flu, the WHO typically calls a pandemic when a new virus is spreading in two regions of the world; COVID-19 is now spreading in parts of four.

What was the last global pandemic?

The last disease the WHO declared a pandemic was a new flu strain, initially called “swine flu,” in 2009. That decision came after the new H1N1 flu had been spreading in multiple countries for about six weeks. Today, that strain is what’s known as “endemic” worldwide — it became part of every season’s regular flu outbreak.

Outbreak? Epidemic? Pandemic? What’s the difference?

An outbreak is a sudden rise in cases of a disease in a particular place. An epidemic is a large outbreak. A pandemic means a global epidemic.

What does it mean about the disease’s severity?

Pandemic is a scary word but it has nothing to do with how serious the illness is. It just means a disease is spreading widely. There can be pandemics of mild illness, like that H1N1 flu turned out to be in 2009.





Want to comment on our stories or respond to others? Join the conversation by subscribing now. Only paid subscribers can add their thoughts or upvote/downvote comments. Our commenting policy can be viewed here