Coronavirus daily blog, March 16: SCS extends closure to April 6

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 20, 2020 9:15 AM CT | Published: March 16, 2020 8:21 AM CT
<span><strong>After this week&rsquo;s scheduled spring break at Shelby County Schools, the closure will be extended two additional weeks until April 6. Superintendent Joris Ray made the announcement on Monday, March 16.</strong> </span>(Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

After this week’s scheduled spring break at Shelby County Schools, the closure will be extended two additional weeks until April 6. Superintendent Joris Ray made the announcement on Monday, March 16. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian)

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.

Confirmed cases
Shelby County

Here’s the latest from Memphis and Shelby County, below, when it comes to dealing with the novel coronavirus. To view full coverage, check out The Daily Memphian’s dispatches from MondayTuesdayWednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

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Shadyac: St. Jude postponing some fundraising events

10:05 PM CT, March 16

Richard Shadyac Jr., president and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, announced Monday in a text message to supporters that ALSAC was postponing some fundraising events because of the coronavirus.

He said in the text that the most of the ALSAC staff was working from home in modified work arrangements because of the virus. He also said they were conducting virtual meetings to do their part with social distancing to help slow the threat of the virus.

“We have also postponed fundraising events that put people in close proximity to one another and moved others online so we can continue supporting the patients and families and our important life-saving work,” Shadyac said. “Each of these decisions will inevitably impact fundraising, our lifeblood, but we feel deeply an obligation to our communities and to all of you to do our part to slow the spread of this virus.”

He thanked supporters for helping St. Jude families over the years and provided updates about ALSAC and St. Jude response to COVID-19, including limiting visits to the St. Jude campus.

“I know how deeply you care for the children who rely on St. Jude and I can assure you St. Jude is doing everything possible to protect the vulnerable children in our care. Patients battling cancer and other diseases treated by St. Jude are extremely susceptible to contagious viruses, and our medical leadership is strictly limiting visits to our campus to essential personnel only as well as taking other precautions.”


Visitations at county correctional facilities suspended

8:04 PM CT, March 16

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that is suspending all visitation at all of its correctional facilities beginning Tuesday, March 17.

Capt. Anthony Buckner, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, posted a video on Twitter about the visitation changes at the men’s jail at 201 Poplar, Jail East, the women’s jail and the juvenile detention center in response to the threat of the coronavirus.

“This safety precaution is being implemented out of an abundance of caution for our youth detainees and their families,” he said in the video. “Youth detainees will still be able to communicate with their families through free phone calls. “

He said all visitors will have to take a short questionnaire to ensure they are safe to be near staff and other visitors. Children under the age of 18 will be banned from visitations.

Attorneys will be allowed to visit their clients by video chat or in-person but must also take the questionnaire.

Buckner said the jail’s more than 300 volunteers will be prohibited from participating in activities at all SCSO facilities.

“While we understand this may create some difficulties, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office ask for your continued patience as we work diligently to keep our staff, our detainees and the public safe.”

Last week, Shelby County government announced that in-person visitation at the Shelby County Corrections Center was being temporarily halted over the virus. The county waived fees for phone calls and video chats for inmates at the facility.


City Councilman Dr. Warren advises on coronavirus

8:01 PM CT, March 16

From Dr. Jeff Warren, city councilman:

“As a practicing physician and member of the Memphis City Council, I want to share with you an important message regarding COVID-19.

As part of Mayor Strickland’s COVID Task Force, we are coordinating with the State and County, hospitals and medical professionals to respond in a preemptive way so that Memphis will be the most prepared city in the nation to counteract the spread of COVID. Here is how you can help:

“1. Please do not panic and stockpile food and supplies. Our supply chain can provide what we need. Reach out to a neighbor and offer to sell or donate supplies if you did and this will allow our stores to restock and address everyone’s needs.

“2. Practice social distancing and avoid crowds of any kind. Many restaurants and businesses are leading the way in removing tables and chairs and the city is now limiting any gathering to less than 50 people.

“3. Wash your hands, practice good hygiene and avoid touching your face.

“4. Stay home and avoid contact with as few people as possible until we have actual local data to see where we are on the epidemic curve.

“It’s important we get on the right side of the curve, and that means all of us working together to slow the spread of this virus. Locally, we have seen no current spike in emergency room visits and the next three to four weeks are crucial that we remain vigilant.

“It is all of our responsibility to stay heathy so we don’t infect the most vulnerable among us.

“Please share and help us get the message to as many people as possible.”


Public Defender asks for release of bondable pretrial eligible inmates

7:05 PM CT, March 16

The office of the Shelby County Public Defender is calling for all inmates jailed solely because they cannot afford bond be released due to coronavirus concerns.

Phyllis Aluko, the public defender, issued a press release Monday, March 16 asking that the courts including juvenile court release all bondable pretrial eligible inmates.

“We understand that keeping our clients and staff safe will require certain operation modifications. However, we also understand that it is often during stressful times like these that our clients are most at risk,” she said. “Our community has tasked us with the duty to protect the rights of indigent people whose liberty the state is trying to take away.”

She added, “Although people who are currently being booked into jail may undergo a health screening, we are concerned that the under-resourced system for providing medical care to inmates won’t be able to properly test and treat every detained person who might develop COVID-19 while incarcerated.”

Aluko said her office is concerned about jail detainees who the Centers for Disease Control have said were vulnerable with pre-existing health issues.

“Therefore, our office will ask our juvenile and criminal law judges to conduct a review of the detention orders or bonds set for our clients who are being detained pretrial on pending charges for which they have not been found guilty,” she stated. “Those detained subject to bond are the same people who would otherwise be released pending trial if they were wealthy enough to post bond.”

She said that the people detained because they can’t afford bond should not be forced to choose between remaining in jail where they are vulnerable to a COVID-19 outbreak and accepting a plea bargain to get out of jail because they are concerned about the risk to their health.

“Those detained subject to bond are the same people who would otherwise be released pending trial if they were wealthy enough to post bond,” Aluko said.


Board of Adjustment, Landmarks meetings canceled for March

6:45 PM CT, March 16

The March meetings for the Board of Adjustment and the Landmarks Commission, scheduled for Wednesday, March 25, and Thursday, March 26, respectively, are cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Office of Planning & Development will send cancellation notices to all property owners who had received a notice of the meetings, said Josh Whitehead, planning director for Memphis and Shelby County.

“The cases scheduled for public hearings next week will be re-docketed for the April meetings,” Whitehead said.

The affected Board of Adjustment cases include a proposal by Shelby County Schools to erect a old FedEx airplane in front of East High School in part to signify the school’s STEM program. Other delayed cases in include proposals to operate blood plasma centers at 4212 Elvis Presley and 7124 Winchester.

For now, the April 9 meeting of the Land Use Control Board is still scheduled “and all matters docketed for that meeting remain scheduled at this point,” he said.

 -- Tom Bailey



Memphis mosques suspend on-site daily prayers

6:28 PM CT, March 16

Starting Tuesday, March 17, all Memphis-area mosques will suspend the on-site five daily prayers and Friday congregational prayer service until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suspension also covers weekly programming, lectures and classes, which had been previously announced.

“Our imams and religious scholars reviewed and discussed all currently available information both nationally and locally within the greater Memphis area,” a statement read from the Memphis Islamic Center’s Facebook page. “Based on guidance and evidence from The Qur’an and Sunnah and in order to preserve the life and the well-being of the community, our religious leadership unanimously agreed on the permissibility of suspending daily congregational and Friday prayers during a pandemic.”

Imams and mosque staff are working on scheduling remote live broadcasting of nightly and weekly meetings and also remain available for consultation and religious advice via telephone, according to the statement.

The decision, according to the announcement, has the support of all eight mosques in the Memphis area:

  • Masjid Al-Mu’minun: 4412 S. 3rd St.
  • Masjid Al-Muslimeen: 3131 Directors Row
  • Masjid Al-Noor: 3529 Mynders Ave.
  • Masjid Ar-Rahman: 7906 Lowrance Road
  • Masjid As-Salam: 1065 Stratford Road
  • Masjid At-Taqwa: 1803 Winchester Road
  • Memphis Islamic Center: 10225 Humphrey Road
  • Midtown Mosque: 1288 Jackson Ave.


Shelby County Schools closing until April 6

6:22 PM CT, March 16

Shelby County Schools is closing until April 6, Superintendent Joris Ray announced on Twitter.

After this week’s scheduled spring break, the extended closure will be two additional weeks out of school.

Ray said the extended closure comes after Tennessee Department of Education and Gov. Bill Lee’s recomendations today.


Playhouse on the Square cancels performances

5:48 PM CT, March 16

Playhouse on the Square will cancel remaining performances of “The Book of Will,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Schoolhouse Rock Live,” “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and “Days of Rage” through May 7.

In an email statement, the professional theater organization cited its "18 productions on 3 stages, 2 school touring productions, and 13 education and outreach programs, reaching tens of thousands of people yearly.”

Cancellation plans were based on the most recent recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control. 

Other alterations in Playhouse scheduling include new dates for the “Little Shop of Horrors” run, either from May 8-31 or May 15-June 7; new dates for “Mississippi Goddam,” from June 12-28; and postponement of the 43rd annual art auction from April 25 to summer or fall of 2020.

The box office, 901-726-4656, will contact those with tickets to canceled performances about options to change reservations, receive refunds or process payments as donations.


Tunica casinos close temporarily

5:10 PM CT, March 16

The Mississippi Gaming Commission has announced all casinos in the state, including Tunica, will close temporarily effective Tuesday, March 17.

The Gaming Commission said the casinos will close until further notice and that the decision will be evaluated daily.

Southland Casino Gaming in West Memphis will close indefinitely at 6 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

Southland said no new customers would be permitted to enter after 11:59 p.m. Monday, and no date was given for it to reopen.

Earlier Monday, the Mississippi Gaming Commission said all of the state’s casinos, including those in Tunica County, would close effective Tuesday until further notice.

MGM Resorts International said Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica would close casino operations at 6 a.m. Tuesday, followed by closing of hotel operations.

The notice was posted on the gaming commission’s website Monday.

The closure follows the closing of casinos in several other states including Alabama, Nevada, New York and New Jersey.

The casinos are following the lead of several businesses that are closing after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory about social distancing. The CDC said the public should avoid crowds of more than 10 people, which was announced during a press conference by President Donald Trump Monday afternoon.

Twelve cases of the coronavirus had been confirmed in Mississippi as of March 16. In Tennessee, there are 52 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Nationwide, more than 4,000 people have tested positive for the virus.


Catholic Diocese of Memphis decree cancels Eucharist celebration, excuses people from mass

5:21 PM CT, March 16

A decree and letter from Bishop David Talley of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis canceled the public celebration of the Eucharist effective Monday, and people are excused from attending weekly and holiday Mass services.

“I have made the reluctant decision to cancel the public celebration of the Holy Eucharist throughout the Catholic Diocese of Memphis until further notice,” the letter said.

He said the decision was made “as a disciple,” but it was not an easy one. He said the cancellation is “until further notice.”

The Catholic Diocese of Memphis covers 21 counties in West Tennessee between the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers.

“It pains me that the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus has taken such a toll on communities throughout the world and that this step is necessary,” Bishop Talley wrote. “... As the celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian faith-life, how is it possible to live without the gift of Holy Communion, Sunday by Sunday? It will be difficult.”

Talley said he was making arrangements for the diocese to stream Sunday Mass on Facebook. The bishop said he and other priests will privately celebrate on behalf of the intentions of the people.

He asked they continue Lenten sacrifices and pray for an end to the outbreak.


Pink Palace postpones Free Tuesdays

4:17 PM CT, March 16

The Pink Palace Family of Museums is postponing Free Tuesdays indefinitely to limit large gatherings. The free admission period has applied to the permanent exhibits only between 1 and 4 p.m. Currently, the Pink Palace Museums are open during normal hours of operation. 

Updates will be posted on or the Pink Palace’s social media pages. 

”We are monitoring updates and public health recommendations as issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as from the Shelby County (TN) Health Department and the City of Memphis,” Kevin Thompson, executive director of the museums, said in a statement.

”We will continue to update you should our plans change,” he said. “At this time, all of our facilities – the Pink Palace, the CTI 3D theater, the planetarium, Lichterman Nature Center and our historical houses – remain open during their respective normal operating hours.”


Workshops for city council grants postponed

4:15 PM CT, March 16

What comes before the city budget season? Preparing for what will probably be a bunch of grand applications that will be double or triple the $2.6 million the Memphis City Council has allocated to make grants to nonprofit community groups large and small.

And this week was to be a critical point in the grant process with grant writing and administration workshops that are part of the requirements for getting a grant from the council.

Council budget committee chairman Martavius Jones announced Monday the workshops are postponed for at least the next eight weeks. No date has been set for the workshops.

The council still plans to meet next week for the first time since the novel coronavirus became a major concern. Council chairwoman Patrice Robinson is encouraging citizens who want to follow the meeting to watch the livestream on the council’s website and avoid coming to City Hall.

As for the budget process, the city council has some time to consider any alterations to its planning for that.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is to present his budget proposal to the council at its April 21 meeting. The budget presentation then goes to hearings before the council budget committee and a vote by the full council ideally at one of the two council sessions in June ahead of the July 1 start of the city’s fiscal year.


Shelby County Criminal Justice Center makes adjustments

4:54 PM CT, March 16

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich announced several changes to how cases are handled at Shelby County Criminal Justice Center.

Out-of-custody defendants scheduled to report to general sessions or criminal court March 16 through March 31 will report on corresponding days of the week April 20 through May 5.

There will be no jury trials until further notice.

Victims or witnesses subpoenaed by the District Attorney’s office will be contacted. Those not contacted within a day of their ordred appearance should call 901-222-1300 and ask for the Victim Witness Unit.

In-custody cases are top priority and will be handled as normal.

Read more.


Testing sites set up

3:44 PM CT, March 16

Gov. Bill Lee says 15 remote sites will be set up by the end of the week for people with COVID-19 symptoms to be tested. In addition, any uninsured resident who qualifies for testing can show up at any health department or test station to be checked at no cost.

Eleven of the testing sites are operating, and several more are to be up and running by the end of the week. But so far Memphis doesn’t have any of the remote sites. Shelby healthcare providers are working on them, according a spokeswoman for the governor.


AAC cancels competition through school year

3:31 PM CT, March 16

The American Athletic Conference has canceled athletic competitions and championships for the remainder of the school year.

The AAC also announced their teams have ceased practicing for an undetermined amount of time. Spring football initially postponed its practice from March 16-21 following the announcement the UofM would extend spring break to March 22.

Softball, baseball, golf,, tennis along with track and field were in-season while the women’s soccer team planned events throughout the spring. The NCAA announced there would be eligibility relief for athletes affected by these moves.

Memphis canceled Friday Night Stripes and other spring events in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control recommends there not be gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. On Monday, President Donald Trump recommended avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.


Dow experiences worst day since 1987

3:15 PM CT, March 16

The Dow industrials took a 2,999-point nosedive on Monday as fears deepen that the coronavirus outbreak will throw global economy into recession.

Even for a market beset by volatility in recent weeks, the losses were staggering. The 12.9% drop in the Dow was its worst since 1987.

The losses accelerated in the last hour of trading as President Donald Trump advised Americans to avoid large gatherings. He also said he sees a chance of recession and promised help to the struggling airline industry.

The losses came as huge swaths of the economy come closer to a standstill due to the outbreak as businesses and travel shut down.

--The Associated Press


Germantown announces four facility closures

3:31 PM CT, March 16

Germantown is closing four of its facilities after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines advising against mass gatherings of 50 or more.

The Germantown Athletic Club, Germantown Community Library, Germantown Performing Arts Center, Tennessee Genealogical Society and Great Hall & Conference Center will close Monday at 5 p.m. and not open until further notice.

Questions can be directed to respective facilities:


Stax Museum to close temporarily

1:53 PM CT, March 16

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music will temporarily close beginning Wednesday, March 18. All events through Thursday, April 30 will be postponed. 

“Like the rest of the world, we are deeply concerned about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak,” said Soulsville Foundation President and CEO Richard Greenwald, in a statement. “We realize that many of the Stax Museum’s guests travel to Memphis from across the United States and from other countries and given the propensity for the virus to affect those traveling, we feel it’s our responsibility to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by temporarily closing the Stax Museum. It’s not an easy decision but we feel it’s the right thing to do at this time.”

The foundation will reevaluate the museum’s closure status every two weeks. 



Legislature to recess after completing ‘essential work’

3:02 PM CT, March 16

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton announced Monday afternoon, March 16, that the Legislature will complete only essential work before recessing in response to the coronavirus.

They did not say how long the recess might last. 

The group issued the following statement:

“Over the last week, we have remained in close contact with the state’s health leaders, and we have continued to carefully monitor the complex and aggressive COVID-19 virus in Tennessee. The latest guidance from both the CDC and Department of Health requires us to take unprecedented action.

“In the best interests of public health, we have jointly decided to limit all remaining legislative business to fulfilling our constitutional requirement of passing a balanced budget, and any associated actions that will ensure Tennessee can keep its doors open.

“This is a serious time for our state and country, and we all must make adjustments in response to this threat. Our approach will take into account the unique public health challenges this complex virus presents, as well as the economic disruption likely to occur as a result of its spread.

“Passing an amended budget now and recessing will allow the General Assembly to focus on an immediate plan of action, while still determining needs down the road. This pathway forward should only be reserved for extraordinary circumstances. We will continue operating out of an abundance of caution and take additional action if it becomes necessary.”


Confirmed cases up to 52 statewide

2:07 PM CT, March 16

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there are 52 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, as of Monday, March 16. The Shelby County total of confirmed cases remains at 2. 

The age range of the cases statewide is 11 to 82-years-old. 

Davidson County, where Nashville is located, has 25 confirmed cases. Neighboring Williamson County has 18. 

This post will be updated.


Southern College of Optometry, clinics closing for safety

1:59 PM CT, March 16

The Southern College of Optometry campus and two clinics, FocalPoint at Crosstown and University EyeCare on the University of Memphis campus, are closed, starting today.

Students will access their lectures remotely. The Eye Center at SCO will suspend regular eye care, but a small volunteer group of faculty and staff will be available to triage emergency care. This may include sudden flashes or floaters in the field of vision, a foreign object in the eye, or significant injuries like abrasions or chemical burns.

By doing this, clinical staff hope to avoid exposing patients to potentially crowded emergency rooms.

Patients who need to access this care should call The Eye Center, (901) 722-3250. For more details, consult


Dixon Gallery will close, gardens open

1:38 PM CT, March 16

Effective Tuesday, March 17, the Dixon Galleries, the museum facility only, will close for two weeks.

“We will see where we are on Monday, March 30,” the museum said in an email to patrons.

“We also are canceling all education and outreach programs, whether in the museum or in the gardens, and asking our many volunteers to work from home the next two weeks or to take a few days off.”

The garden will remain open; guests are asked to practice social distancing. 

The Dixon is also canceling or postponing the following large events: the Margaret Oates Dixon Society gathering on March 18; the Philipp Laagland lecture on March 19; the Daffodil Show, March 20-21; the Director of Horticulture tour of ‘Dixon Blooms' on March 24; the Memphis Flower Show, April 3-5; the Cosmopolitans Spring Party, April 9 and the Dixon Easter Egg Hunt on April 11.



Taste of Memphis canceled

1:33 PM CT, March 16

The annual Taste of Memphis, a Housing and Community Development event scheduled for April 9, has been canceled, Mayor Jim Strickland said in a Monday morning update.

The update also said 123 people are under quarantine for contact with people who may have the Coronavirus and that 18 tests for the virus are pending. 

It has been a day of meetings at City Hall for Strickland, including a session with leaders of local hospitals and the Shelby County Health Department. And then a meeting with tourism officials, the Memphis Restaurant Association and the Metropolitan Memphis Hotel Lodging Association.

No specific mention was made of the Memphis In May International Festival, which is still on according to festival organizers as of this morning.

Strickland also pointed out in the emailed update that “many restaurants are already following CDC guidelines of social distancing and other recommendations.”

Additionally, Strickland encouraged Memphians to continue to get to-go orders from restaurants and support the businesses.


Children’s Museum to close temporarily

1:23 PM CT, March 16

The Children’s Museum of Memphis will close indefinitely Tuesday in response to Centers for Disease Control advice on COVID-19. 

”Although we have not had any presumed or confirmed cases of the virus at the museum, we would rather do our part to protect the safety of our visitors, staff, and the community,” said CMOM executive director Stewart Burgess in an email statement.

Burgess said the museum would continue to offer via social media suggestions to keep children engaged.


Memphis Symphony won’t hold March concerts

1:02 PM CT, March 16

The Memphis Symphony Orchestra will not perform its scheduled concerts Saturday night at the Cannon Center and Sunday afternoon at Germantown Performing Arts Center. 

The performances of “Strauss, Tchaikovsky & Shostakovich” were part of the Masterworks series. 

“The decision to reschedule or cancel these concerts will be determined at a later date,” Bryan Artiles, MSO marketing manager, wrote by email. Listed below are the options MSO suggested for ticketholders:

  • Wait to see if the concerts will be rescheduled later this season 
  • Donate your tickets as a philanthropic gift to support the musicians 
  • Exchange your ticket for a voucher for a future performance 
  • Receive a refund 

The MSO box office is 901-537-2500. The MSO offices will be closed and MSO administration will be working remotely.


Manufacturers asked to pitch in

12:51 PM CT, March 16

The British government is asking manufacturers including Ford and Rolls-Royce to make ventilators for COVID-19 patients.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office says he has a conference call scheduled with industrial executives about turning over some of their production to essential medical equipment.

Johnson spokesman James Slack said: “We are facing what is an unprecedented situation and that is going to require an unprecedented response.”

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News that the U.K. had about 5,000 ventilators but would need “many times more than that.”

Hancock said: “We’re saying that if you produce a ventilator, then we will buy it.”


Agricenter halts large events for now

12:49 PM CT, March 16

Agricenter International announced Monday, March 16, it is either postponing or canceling large events at its facilities through March 31, effective immediately.

All event activities in Agricenter’s Expo Center, ShowPlace Arena and its Farmer’s Market that are larger than 50 people will be postponed or canceled through March 31.

Agricenter said it is working closely with show organizers to reschedule their events as possible. Event notices will be posted on its events page at

Agricenter is monitoring the recommendations from the CDC and Shelby County Health Department as it relates to COVID-19 in the Mid-South region. CDC issued guidance over the weekend on limiting gatherings to 50 people or less. 

Event activities for next month will be reassessed as April approaches, Agricenter said.


Germantown cancels March court dates

1:08 PM CT, March 16

Germantown is cancelling all municipal court sessions in March in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Those who were scheduled to appear March 18 or 25 should reschedule their appearances by calling the court clerk’s office at (901) 757-7212.

The court clerk’s office will remain open 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office will be able to provide information and take payments over the phone.

Convenience fines and court fees may also be paid online at or by phone at 1(833) 257-8351.


House and Senate expected to pass short-term budget and adjourn for 60 days

12:30 PM CT, March 16

House and Senate leaders have reached an agreement for the Legislature’s schedule, likely entailing an early, temporary adjournment for 60 days, according to sources.

An announcement is expected soon on Monday, March 16, with Gov. Bill Lee to hold a 3 p.m. press conference.

Both chambers will take up the budget this week and delay non-essential legislation until they come back from the recess.

House Education Committee Chairman Mark White said Monday the Legislature will deal this week with issues affecting the governor’s $40.9 billion budget plan, then handle other matters later.

Lawmakers expect to pass a short-term budget this week, take an extended break and come back to the Cordell Hull Building in two months.

House committee meetings were canceled Monday, but the Senate Education Committee passed a $6.9 billion K-12 education budget for fiscal 2020-21 – without comment. It will go next to the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee.

Meanwhile, a 5:30 p.m. Senate meeting was scheduled for the Department of Health to provide a briefing.

But Memphis Democratic Sens. Raumesh Akbari and Katrina Robinson were not expected to attend, out of concern for the coronavirus.


University of Memphis looking to postpone spring graduation

11:33 AM CT, March 16

University of Memphis is exploring the option to postpone its spring graduation ceremony, originally scheduled for May 9.

University of Memphis President M. David Rudd said in an email to staff and students the decision came after the Centers for Disease Control made recommendations to cancel events of 50 or more people.

Graduation is usually held at FedExForum.

Rudd also said staff was looking to transition to remote and virtual learning for the remainder of the spring semester.


Your noon national novel coronavirus update

11:45 AM CT, March 16

It’s almost noon in Memphis. Below is what some national outlets are reporting about the coronavirus.

New York Times: Here’s an interactive graphic of which employees in the U.S. have the greatest risk of becoming sick based on how much their job puts them in physical contact with lots of people. It also illustrates how many people have those occupations and what those jobs pay.

Bloomberg: An aviation consultant says that the pandemic could bankrupt most airlines by the end of May unless preventative action is taken.

Wall Street Journal: In Australia, supermarkets will restrict early morning shopping hours to those who are age 60 and older or who have a disability. 


Neighborhood meeting requirement suspended for developers

11:09 AM CT, March 16

The Office of Planning & Development on Monday morning responded to the need for social distancing to combat the coronavirus, suspending all neighborhood meetings required of developers until further notice, Planning Director Josh Whitehead said.

Typically, applicants for planned developments or special use permits are required to organize a neighborhood meeting for residents living near the project site to explain their proposal and seek input.


Malco Summer Drive-In: Double features through March 26

10:59 AM CT, March 16

Malco Summer Drive-In will be open all week to allow those with cabin fever an outing.

The drive in – which is usually only open on weekends – will be showing double features all week beginning Monday, March 16.

First show: 7:15 p.m. Second show: 9:30 p.m.
Bloodshot (PG-13) Bad Boys for Life (R)
The Hunt (R) The Invisible Man* (R)
Onward (PG) Sonic the Hedgehog (PG)
The Way Back (R) Birds of Prey (PG-13)

*The Invisible Man will begin at 9:10 p.m.

The schedule should hold until March 26, according to Karen Melton, Malco Theatres’ director of marketing.

The box office opens 30 minutes before showtime and children under 10 are admitted free.


Number in county being monitored falls to 123 people

10:52 AM CT, March 16

Shelby County continues to have two confirmed cases of COVID-19; and 123 are now being monitored by the Shelby County Health Department, down from 133 on Sunday. 

There are 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. 

“As of today, 33 people in Shelby County have been approved for testing by the Tennessee Department of Health state lab,” the health department said in its daily morning briefing.

“That number does not include testing by private labs.”

Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all events for 50 or more people be canceled or postponed for eight weeks. The guidance does not apply to schools, universities or businesses.

Sunday, the CDC also recommended that all travel on cruise ships be deferred. This is particularly important for older adults and people with chronic medical conditions.

The health department has activated a call center to answer questions about COVID-19 seven days a week. The number is 833-943-1658. The line is staffed during regular business hours, Monday – Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After-hours calls are returned on the next day.

The health department’s COVID-19 web page is: It includes information about the virus and links to resources for individuals, families, businesses and faith communities.


Indie Memphis postponing March, April events

10:42 AM CT, March 16

Indie Memphis is postponing its upcoming March and April events to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Those who bought film screening tickets will either receive a refund or their member credits returned, said executive director Ryan Watt, in an email. 

The youth film mentor teams will meet virtually. 


Criminal court cases suspended over COVID-19

10:25 AM CT, March 16

Shelby County General Sessions Criminal Court has reset court hearings suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The Sessions clerk’s office emailed the reset dates on Monday, March 16. The court cases applies to defendants who are currently not in custody.

Read more by clicking here.


Gov. Lee urges all schools to close

9:56 AM CT, March 16

Gov. Bill Lee issued a statement Monday, March 16, urging every school system in Tennessee to close.

“As the response to COVID-19 evolves, I urge every school district in Tennessee to close as soon as practically possible, with all schools expected to close by Friday, March 20, 2020 at the latest. Schools should remain closed through March 31, 2020 to further mitigate the spread of this infectious disease and we will issue further guidance prior to March 31.

“Superintendents and local leadership have the full support of my administration to determine effective dates for closure this week as they evaluate what is best for families within their respective districts. We understand the tremendous burden school closure places on families and we will continue to work with both the federal government and school districts to ensure we continue essential supports like meals for students in need. Every Tennessean has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and I urge Tennesseans to be quick to help neighbors as new needs surface with the closure of schools.”


Germantown Chamber of Commerce cancels luncheon

9:54 AM CT, March 16

Germantown Chamber of Commerce has canceled its monthly membership luncheon.

The featured speaker scheduled was Michael Ugwueke, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s president and chief executive officer.

The decision to cancel comes the morning after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked organizations to cancel or postpone gatherings of 50 or more for the next eight weeks

Members, who pay $30 for the lunch, can forward the fee towards a future monthly lunch.

The Chamber of Commerce office is closed, according to Janie Day, CEO and President.

Members will be updated later this week about other events that are affected by the virus.


Area YMCAs limit operations to wellness centers

9:36 AM CT, March 16

Mid-South YMCAs will be in limited operation until further notice, with only wellness centers open.

The YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South announced Sunday night it had temporarily canceled all aquatics, youth and group exercise classes and programming.

The closing affects drop-in child care at branches, the Well at Church Health, basketball gymnasiums, steam rooms, saunas and pools.

Also closed are child care programs including early learning centers, spring break camps and extended child care programs.

The organization it is limiting operations to wellness centers, including cardio equipment and weights. The changes are in response to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations about safe social distancing.


Starbucks removes seating

9:33 AM CT, March 16

To support social distancing during the virus pandemic, the Starbucks at Union and McLean, like others, has removed all seating inside its coffee shop. But the shop remains open for drive-thru and anyone who comes in, orders, gets the order and leaves.

A sign on the door states, “We have temporarily closed our seating area, but we remain open to serve you. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.”

Starbucks announced on Sunday, March 15, that it would be moving to a to-go only model in all company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least two weeks. 

Other measures the company is taking include

  • A modified condiment bar in all stores
  • Modified “order ahead” handoff areas on a store-by-store basis
  • Temporary closures for company-owned stores in high-social gathering locations, such as malls and university campuses
  • Temporary store closures or reduced operating hours in communities with high clusters of COVID – 19 cases


Frayser Exchange Club canceling March meetings

9:20 AM CT, March 16

The Frayser Exchange Club is canceling meetings for the remainder of March over concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, president Shelly Rice said in an email Monday, March 16.

The organization hopes to resume its weekly meetings in April.

“We are extremely hopeful that we will be able to continue with our programs, scheduled guest speakers and the many functions associated with Frayser Exchange beginning with meeting of April 2 and will work to reschedule those guest speakers whose meetings have been canceled,” Rice said.

About 30 to 40 people gather each week at the Exchange Club to discuss the latest happenings in the neighborhood, and hear from a notable community keynote speaker. The Frayser Exchange Club has been around for more than 50 years.


Brooks Museum temporarily closed

8:56 AM CT, March 16

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is closed through Tuesday, March 31.

The closure, which began 5 p.m. Sunday, March 15, includes all public programming. 

“Since March 4, the Brooks staff has made extraordinary efforts to disinfect and sanitize its spaces,” said executive director Emily Ballew Neff, in a statement. “We now believe we must close temporarily to further limit transmission of COVID-19, and do all we can as a public institution to ensure the safety of our visitors, staff, volunteers and community.”


Stocks tank at opening Monday

8:39 AM CT, March 16

Stocks opened significantly lower on Wall Street Monday, triggering circuit breakers to halt trading, a day after the Federal Reserve took emergency measures to try to stem the impact of coronavirus on the U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average opened almost 10% lower and was at 20,935 when trading was halted temporarily. The S&P 500 opened 8% lower.

The Federal Reserve took emergency action Sunday, cutting its benchmark interest rate to near zero and saying it would buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds in the coming months.


Civil Rights Museum to close temporarily; cancels April 4 MLK commemoration event

8:28 AM CT, March 16

The National Civil Rights Museum will temporarily close to the public beginning Tuesday, March 17.

All of the museum’s public programs, including the annual April 4 service commemorating the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., are canceled until further notice.

“We will provide frequent updates on any changes in our operations status,” Connie Dyson, NCRM marketing communication manager, said in an email. 



coronavirus COVID-19


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