Coronavirus daily blog, March 18: Health Department confirms fourth Shelby case

By Updated: March 20, 2020 9:43 AM CT | Published: March 17, 2020 8:17 PM CT
<strong>Costco employee Jodie Bowden disinfects grocery cart handles for customers as they enter the busy Costco on Germantown Road on Wednesday, March 18. Costco management is attempting to comply with federal social distancing guidelines by allowing 10-20 customers into the store periodically, a policy designed to control checkout lines and crowding.</strong> (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)

Costco employee Jodie Bowden disinfects grocery cart handles for customers as they enter the busy Costco on Germantown Road on Wednesday, March 18. Costco management is attempting to comply with federal social distancing guidelines by allowing 10-20 customers into the store periodically, a policy designed to control checkout lines and crowding. (Jim Weber/Daily Memphian)

Confirmed cases
Shelby County
4
Metro Memphis
5
Tennessee
98
U.S.
7,038

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 new coronavirus landing page.

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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.


March 18, 2020

Memphis Zoo closes indefinitely

7:53 PM CT, March 18

The Memphis Zoo is closing until further notice.

The zoo posted on Twitter that it would close Thursday, and Amanda Moses, communications specialist, confirmed it was “indefinitely.”

Public educational events and programming have been canceled. Groups with planned field trips may reschedule or receive a refund.

 Zookeepers will continue to care for animals and updates will be provided on social media.

Zoo officials will follow recommendations from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine when the zoo may reopen.

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Area YMCA locations to suspend operations

4:50 PM CT, March 18

The YMCA, which had recently announced a number of suspended operations, is now shutting it all down. 

On Wednesday, March 18, Jerry Martin, president and CEO of YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South, posted:

Due to the ongoing public health emergency presented by the COVID-19 virus outbreak, we will be temporarily suspending operations of all YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South membership center locations effective at the 8 p.m. on March 18, 2020. We anticipate this closure will last at least two weeks but will adapt our plans based on the best and latest guidance from the CDC and local public health officials.”

The post re-directed members to digital wellness resources on the YMCA website. The organization had previously announced on March 16 that it had temporarily canceled all aquatics, youth and group exercise classes and programming.

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Wolfchase Galleria closing until March 29

4:42 PM CT, March 18

Wolfchase Galleria will close until Sunday, March 29.

On Wednesday, March 18, Simon Properties announced in a release that all of its United States properties would close at 7 p.m. and remain closed until March 29.

The closures come after the Indianapolis-based company had discussions with federal, state and local officials. 

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Billy Hardwick’s closing

4:36 PM CT, March 18

Billy Hardwick’s All Star Lanes is scheduled to close at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 18. 

When a reporter for The Daily Memphian called the bowling center at 1576 S. White Station Road in East Memphis, the person who answered the phone said it will be closed until April 1.

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Community Foundation launches COVID-19 Regional Response Fund

3:40 PM CT, March 18

The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis and several partners announced Wednesday, March 18 they have launched the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund to help community members dealing with economic consequences from the pandemic.

Other entities involved include the City of Memphis, Shelby County Government, United Way of the Mid-South, and Momentum Nonprofit Partners/Mid-South Philanthropy Network.

The Community Foundation is hosting the fund and is seeded from a $250,000 donation from the Nike Foundation. The funds will go to nonprofit organizations in West Tennessee, Eastern Arkansas, and Northern Mississippi who are working with community members regarding the outbreak.

“This is an unprecedented event in our community, and we don’t know how the next weeks and months will play out,” said Robert Fockler, president of the Community Foundation. “This fund allows people and institutions to support a safety net for vulnerable populations and those most affected by the threat to their health, well-being, and economic sustainability.”

The first phase of the grants will address: economic impact of reduced and lost work because of the novel coronavirus outbreak; needs of economically vulnerable populations caused by closures and cancellations related to COVID-19; increased demand for medical information and support; and address fear and confusion about the outbreak among the region’s most vulnerable residents.

The grants awarded by the partnering agencies will be based on the amount of funds received. The first round of grants are expected to be given in the next few weeks, according to the news release.

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Orpheum cancels or postpones shows through April

3:30 PM CT, March 18

The Orpheum Theatre announced that all events through March 28, as well as additional shows in April, have been postponed or canceled at the Orpheum as well as the Halloran Centre. 

A list of details about whether shows will be rescheduled or permanently canceled is on the theater's website. The site includes information about refunds.

Among the shows that were canceled are the concert by the rock band America, originally scheduled for March 15; the Ballet Memphis performance of “Cinderella” April 18-19; and the Southern Comfort Jazz Orchestra April 22.

Postponed shows include “That Golden Girls Show!” “A Tribute to Marvin,” “Celtic Woman,” “Otis Redding III” and “Baby Shark Live!”

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Small business emergency declaration

3:16 PM CT, March 18

Gov. Bill Lee made a disaster declaration Wednesday, March 18, enabling small businesses across the state to tap into federal loans to sustain themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tennessee’s number of positive coronavirus cases climbed to 98 Wednesday, with four confirmed in Shelby County.

Businesses affected by the virus could apply for the funds. This will be crucial for helping companies endure the crisis, Lee said.

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Le Bonheur puts up screening tent, halts elective surgeries

3:08 PM CT, March 18

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital has erected a tent outside of its Emergency Department to help facilitate existing screening procedures for those entering the hospital.

It is not a public drive-by screen location.

It also has made these changes, the hospital announced:

Postponing Elective Surgery – Le Bonheur is limiting all elective surgeries and certain clinic appointments, along with selective tests and procedures. We will continue to collaborate with our surgeons and physicians on this process. If a patient’s appointment, surgery test or procedure needs to be canceled, they will be called directly. If they have questions, they should reach out to their physicians.

Visitation - Only two healthy adult designated caregivers will be allowed to visit patients. 

All visitors to any Le Bonheur facility will be screened upon entrance. If they meet any of the criteria below, they will be asked not to enter the facility:

  • Had contact (within six feet for 10 minutes) with suspected COVID-19 patient
  • Traveled out of the country within the last 14 days to restricted countries
  • Feeling feverish or experiencing chills in the last 48 hours
  • Fever of 100.4 or greater in the last 48 hours
  • Screening checkpoints will be located at entrances.

Le Bonheur Associates Screening – Starting later this week, providers and employees of Le Bonheur will undergo screening when entering a Le Bonheur campus building. They will receive the same verbal and temperature screening.

Volunteers – Our volunteer program has been suspended to limit visitors to the building.

Information for Parents – Visit www.lebonheur.org/coronavirus for the latest information and links to a COVID-19 Resource Center for parents.

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High water inspection canceled (Also: What is a high water inspection)

2:45 PM CT, March 18

The annual “high water” inspection trip of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River Commission is among the latest events to be canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The stops along the river including Memphis are an annual opportunity for the commission to hear from citizens, business owners and elected officials about dredging, flood concerns and other river infrastructure needs.

It’s usually conducted aboard a Corps vessel on the Memphis riverfront near the end of March.

The Memphis District office of the U.S. Army Corps has limited its gatherings and meetings to 10 people or fewer, in line with Centers for Disease Control guidelines. And some district employees are working from home, according to a statement Wednesday from the district.

“I want to emphasize the Memphis district remains open for business,” District Commander Col Zachary Miller said in the email.

The Memphis District has 500 employees and a $300 million annual budget that covers 25,000 square miles in six states, including Tennessee.

The Mississippi River at Memphis is at 27.2 feet on the Memphis gauge as of 1 p.m. Wednesday. Flood stage, the point at which minor flooding begins in the area, is 34 feet; the river was slightly above that level on the Memphis gauge last month.

The river at Memphis is forecast to rise slowly between now and the end of the month to 32.4 feet.

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Update: Health Department gives latest on COVID-19 situation

2:07 PM CT, March 18

Shelby County has four confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon, March 18, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

No new cases have been reported following the confirmation of a fourth local case Wednesday morning. The fourth patient is isolated in a hospital. Authorities are not saying where.

The patient is believed to have contracted the illness from guests visiting from outside the region.

“We still do not have evidence of community based transmission,” said Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department, who has been holding daily media briefings since last week.

“However, I did note this morning (in the County Commission meeting) that this is a red flag because we’re beginning to have more cases that are not connected, which indicates that we can anticipate more cases as we move forward,” she said.

The county health department was monitoring about 130 people in Shelby County as of Wednesday afternoon, including those who are self-quarantined.

Health officials are still tracing all the people who had contact with patients No. 3 and 4, which Haushalter said is a “lengthy investigation” that happens with the person and others who know details about their movements and others in which they had contact.

Each contact has to be interviewed. The health department then prioritizes each person’s risk and then places them in quarantine, Haushalter said.

Patient No. 3 has a small contact pool here because that person, who was traveling extensively in the United States, “was not out and about in the community,” she said.

“They went for medical treatment relatively quickly and remained isolated.”

As the number of cases in the state rise, the public health work continues to be containment and now includes assessing hospital and community’s readiness.

A confirmed case in DeSoto County also has been reported, making five cases of COVID-19 in the Memphis metro area total.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, which is taking the lead on an expedited testing center, has not commented on what the plans are for a system that Haushalter said Monday was to be piloted this week.

“More to come on that,” she said at Tuesday’s briefing.

As the number of cases grow, the Centers for Disease Control directive on who gets tested is likely to change. For now, it is still tied showing symptoms, including fever, as well as secondary factors that include being hospitalized, age, being a close contact with a confirmed case or travel to a Level 3 international country.

The bulk of the cases in Tennessee are in Davidson and Williamson counties. The situation there is complicated by the fact that there are three county health departments in the Nashville metro area

“They all have different systems, and so they are doing things independently, not necessarily collectively, even though people are going back and forth through those counties fairly regularly,” Haushalter said.

She praised actions in Shelby County, including closures that followed quickly after the first case was announced March 8.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray, who took part in the Wednesday briefing, noted that schools are closed through April 6. And while he said the district is getting lots of calls about whether proms and graduations will be canceled, it is still too early to tell.

 The number of sites for food distribution for students during the closing has tripled. Starting Monday, there will be 60 food sites, serving bag lunches from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To see the sites, go here.

 

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Tennessee total climbs to 98 cases, with majority in patients between 18-49 years old

2:01 PM CT, March 18

As of Wednesday, March 18, the Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed 98 cases of novel coronavirus statewide. That includes four in Shelby County.

Out of 369 tests completed by the state Public Health Laboratory, 24 were positive for COVID-19; commercial and private laboratories confirmed 74 positive cases.

Davidson County showed the highest number with 58, followed by Williamson County with 24. Knox and Sumner counties had two each, and several counties had one.

Only two cases were reported for people up to age 17; 67 were for the age group between 18 and 49. Another 10 were reported for the 50-64 age group, and 10 were also reported for people 65 and above.

 

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With recess looming, legislature will only deal with ‘essential’ legislation

1:33 PM CT, March 18

State legislators said they would deal only with “essential” legislation as the General Assembly prepares to recess in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. but a Senate committee passed legislation Wednesday allowing mistakes in voter registration to be punished with fines. 

The bill sponsored by Sen. Ed Jackson, a Jackson Republican, would allow $50 civil penalties for errors on voter registrations turned in as part of registration drives.

Jackson argued the law is needed to clean up a bill passed in 2019 but put on hold by a federal judge who questioned its constitutionality. The law contains criminal and civil penalties, but the cleanup legislation removes the criminal penalties and other requirements.

Jackson said the law needs to be passed in advance of the November election because of problems at the Shelby County Election Commission after voter advocacy groups turned in thousands of registrations in 2018 with bad information. Opponents of this bill say is it not essential in light of the coronavirus and that it has some of the same problems as the bill passed in 2019.

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USL extends suspension of play until at least May 10

1:37 PM CT, March 18

The United Soccer League has extended it suspension of play for teams – including 901 FC – until at least May 10, the league announced Wednesday afternoon.

The action – an extension of the league’s previously announced suspension of play – is in keeping with the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control regarding the number of people who gather for an event.

“To every USL Championship supporter across the country, we want to thank you for your patience and understanding during these extraordinary circumstances” the league said in its release. “As always, your safety, health and wellness are our top priority. We will continue to monitor ongoing events, receive guidance from local, state and national health authorities, and participate in a national task force comprised of other professional sports leagues and organizations from around the country. We also want to extend our support and best wishes to all the individuals and communities who have been impacted by COVID-19.

“We look forward to being back in action again soon.”

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Your national novel coronavirus update

1:42 PM CT, March 18

Below is what some national outlets are reporting about the coronavirus.

  • Wall Street Journal: General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford will temporarily close their U.S. plants.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education: University medical centers, like the ones at the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University, have designed their own coronavirus tests to screen patients. Other university medical centers are working on similar tests. 
  • CNN: Here’a s list of the do’s and don’ts of at-home video conferencing. 

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East Memphis’ Interim closes

1:03 PM CT, March 18

Interim Restaurant & Bar in East Memphis has closed. Earlier this week, Interim ceased lunch service and offered a take-out menu, but now the doors have shut, at least temporarily.

Other recent changes to local restaurants include the temporary closing of the lounge at 3rd & Court in Hotel Indigo; the restaurant remains open. Bounty on Broad, located at 2519 Broad Ave., will close the dining room tomorrow and offer take-out and curbside service only. Brother Juniper’s, 3519 Walker Ave., has closed the dining room but is offering take-out, curbside and delivery during regular business hours. A 50% discount is available for first responders with the code FIRST50; order online at brotherjuniper.com.

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Germantown closing all municipal buildings until further notice

12:27 PM CT, March 18

Germantown City Hall and municipal buildings will be closed to the public beginning Wednesday at 5 p.m. until further notice.

City staff will work on-site and remotely so there is no disruption to services.

Residents and businesses may continue with City business online, by phone or via email. Online forms are available. Residents may address questions and concerns to customer service by phone at (901) 757-7200 or by email CustomerService@germantown-tn.gov.

Germantown Public Works will continue to ensure safe drinking water to residents, and water services will not be shut off at this time due to late payment.

Police and fire departments are also taking caution. Dispatchers are asking COVID-19 screening questions so additional safety steps are taken, if needed.

Many public meetings will be cancelled or rescheduled. The city is awaiting guidance from the state on how to hold meetings while keeping residents safe.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, Design Review Commission, Financial Advisory Commission, Personnel Advisory Commission, Retirement Plan Commission and affiliated subcommitees will continue to meet. The commissions meeting have legislative or budget-related responsibilities.

The Germantown Animal Shelter is closing until further notice. Adoptions at this time are only by appointment. Questions and more information can be provided by shelter at (901) 757-7358.

The city will continue to provide updates on social media and through NextDoor.

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Walgreens to adjust in-store, pharmacy and drive-thru hours

12:27 PM CT, March 18

To support team members and promote wellness among customers, Walgreens has announced it will be implementing abbreviated store hours across most its U.S. locations.

Beginning Thursday, March 19, most Walgreens stores, including those designated as 24-hour locations, will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays.

During weekends, in-store hours will adhere to this policy, while pharmacies will remain open for their normal hours.

“For Walgreens locations with a 24-hour drive-thru pharmacy, while the front of store will close at 9 p.m., the pharmacy drive-thru will remain open, as it always has, for 24 hours to assist customers and patients with their prescriptions. Pickup of other select products will also be available at drive-thru,” Walgreens corporate media relations specialist Alexandra Brown wrote in a Wednesday morning release.

“By operating with reduced hours, our stores will be able to spend the necessary time, while closed, cleaning, sanitizing and stocking shelves each day. We’re also adjusting our hours to help team members and customers feel comfortable and safe to shop our store during this time,” said Walgreens president Richard Ashworth.

“We’re continuing to work around the clock to do everything we can to ensure our customers have access to the care, products and services they need,” he said.

Customers at stores which previously observed hours shorter than 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. are being asked to consult Walgreens’ online store locator for more specific opening and closing information.

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St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral ministry collecting food for “pop-top” giveaway

12:17 PM CT, March 18

The Pop-Top ministry at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral is expanding to meet the needs of hungry people.

It needs crackers in sleeves, potted meats with a pop-top lid - including Vienna sausage, sardines and Spam. It also needs individually wrapped candies and bottles of water.

Bring items to the cathedral on Saturday, 8:30 - 9:30 a.m.

 

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Nike donating $500,000 to Memphis response

12:28 PM CT, March 18

Nike, the Nike Foundation and Nike leadership are donating $15 million to novel coronavirus response efforts; $500,000 of that will be donated to Memphis organizations.

The company announced on Wednesday, March 18, that Nike Foundation is donating $250,000 to the Mid-South Food Bank and $250,000 to the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis’ COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.

To support the places where Nike employees live and work, the company said it will also provide a two-to-one match for donations to support coronavirus response efforts. 

Nike’s nearly three-million-square-foot North American Logistics Campus is located in Frayser. 

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Joris Ray: SCS employees will get paid today

12:03 PM CT, March 18

Via Twitter, Shelby County Schools superintendent Joris Ray said that employees will get paid Wednesday, March 18, which is two days early. 

 

 

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Memphis lab to have capacity to analyze thousands of tests this week

11:54 AM CT, March 18

American Esoteric Laboratories began COVID-19 testing in Shelby County on Monday.

By the end of the week, it expects to have capacity to run several thousand tests per week, said spokeswoman Kristin Barnebey.

“We have validated the testing on two platforms and are providing tests to the local hospitals and clinics requesting COVID-19 tests,” she said.

The lab in Memphis is off Whitten Road and Interstate 40. It is analyzing tests from eight surrounding states, Barnebey said.

Due to confidentiality issues, she could not discuss the volume of work happening in Memphis. She also did not say how many samples were arriving, beyond having the capacity to do thousands per week.

AEL is a subsidiary of Sonic Healthcare USA.

According to its website, respiratory samples for COVID-19 tests are collected from individuals who meet Centers for Disease Control clinical and/or epidemiological criteria for testing.

AEL Patient Service Centers and phlebotomy sites cannot collect specimens for the COVID-19 test.

Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp also have labs in Memphis.

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Frayser CDC to remain open for now

11:34 AM CT, March 18

Despite more and more organizations temporarily closing over COVID-19 concerns, the Frayser Community Development Corp. plans to stay open at least through the rest of March, according to a Facebook post.

Frayser CDC Executive Director Steve Lockwood asked, however, for those who can communicate with them through phone and email to do so.

“At Frayser CDC we want to be safe and responsible, but we also want to keep carrying out our mission,” the CDC wrote on its Facebook page. “We are not a very high traffic office – but there’s a fair amount of one-on-one. We intend to ramp up cleaning procedures and be here for the duration.”

The Frayser CDC, located at 3684 N Watkins St., has rehabbed and rented over 250 properties in the North Memphis neighborhood over the past two decades.

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Hernando woman says she tested positive for COVID-19

11:34 AM CT, March 18

The Mississippi Department of Health has confirmed a DeSoto County person has Coronavirus.

Erin Pugh, 24, of Hernando, Missisissippi said she went to urgent care more than a week ago with flu-like symptoms but after testing negative for flu and strep she was given antibiotics for an ear infection. She was told to come back the next day if she still felt bad and she returned the next day with chest pain. She said the doctor did not examine her.

She said she felt “OK” and continued to go to work. Sunday morning at 3 a.m. she had a headache at work and felt nauseated. When she got home she began throwing up blood and her father took her to the emergency room. She was immediately taken back and said doctors and nurses were wearing protective gear. She was given fluids, a pain medicine and steroids. She was tested for COVID-19 during her four-hour stay. Her nose and throat were swabbed and she spit in a cup.

She said her pain was great enough she could not sleep after a 12-hour shift. According to her Facebook page, she works for Hernando Police Department.

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Immigration courts closing

10:53 AM CT, March 18

Immigration courts in Memphis and seven other cities are closing as a precaution over the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials with the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), the Department of Justice agency that oversees the nation’s immigration courts, sent out an email Wednesday, March 18, about the court closures.

“Due to EOIR’s continuing evaluation of information from local, regional, state, and federal officials regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the agency is postponing non-detained hearings nationwide,” the email stated.

As a result, immigration courts are closing effective March 18 through April 10. In addition to Memphis, the cities affected are Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Louisville, New York (two locations), Newark, N.J., and Sacramento.

Cases with detained immigrants will continue as scheduled

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Lee offers ‘no growth’ budget for coming year

10:35 AM CT, March 18

Gov. Bill Lee is offering a “no-growth” budget for the next fiscal year, reducing a 3.1% revenue growth projection to zero and eliminating dozens of spending proposals while boosting spending by hundreds of millions to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

Instead of a $40.9 billion spending plan, the “no-growth” proposal would match this year’s budget of $38.5 billion, or less.

The plan slows the growth rate for this year to 2.5% from 3.75%, eliminates revenue growth for next year and cuts another $57 million in spending, according to information released by the governor’s office Wednesday morning.

The Legislature is expected to pass the “bare-bones” budget this week and take a recess for at least eight weeks and possibly until June 1.

In response to the tornadoes that struck Middle Tennessee and the coronavirus spreading across the state and nation, the spending plan adds $30 million to the Disaster Relief Fund for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency; increases funding for emergencies to repair state buildings; establishes a $150 million fund to deal with health and safety issues stemming from COVID-19, doubling local governments grants to $200 million; and strengthens the safety net for mental health and health care.

New spending includes fully funding the Basic Education Plan, higher education, the state’s pension plan contribution and liabilities for retirements, inflation for TennCare and growth in the Department of Children’s Services.

The plan also is to expand services for the state’s “vulnerable population” and provide salary funding for state employees, higher education and K-12 employees.

For K-12 teacher pay, the increase will be 2%, $58.6 million, instead of the 4% the governor proposed in his initial budget plan.

The rainy day fund for emergencies will be increased to $1.45 billion instead of $1.2 million and the TennCare reserve will be bumped to $390.4 million.

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Sheriff’s Office suspends visitation at juvenile detention center

10:28 AM CT, March 18

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is suspending in-person visitation at the juvenile court detention center as a precaution over the coronavirus pandemic.

“This safety precaution is being implemented out of an abundance of caution for our youth detainees and their families,” said Capt. Anthony Buckner, a spokesman for SCSO. “Youth detainees will still be able to communicate with their families through free phone calls. “

Buckner said new visiting procedures are also being implemented at the jail at 201 Poplar and Jail East.

He said all visitors will have to complete a short questionnaire to ensure they are safe to be near staff and other visitors. Children under the age of 18 will not be allowed to take part in jail visitations.

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

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

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

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Local governments can hold closed electronic meetings

10:14 AM CT, March 18

A House subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday, March 18, allowing local governments to hold closed meetings electronically to avert the spread of the coronavirus.

Governments such as the Memphis City Council would still have to advertise their meetings under current guidelines but could lock out the public and conduct meetings by video or television, or based on their electronic capability, according to legislation passed by the House Public Service & Employees Subcommittee.

The panel unanimously passed the amendment to House Bill2815 even though it was not attached to the bill on the state’s website.

Lawmakers are meeting without the public and supposedly considering only “essential” legislation, though questions are being raised about what is “essential.”

If a governing body determines that limiting the public’s physical presence is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it can hold the meeting electronically, record the meeting and make it available to the public within 48 hours.

All votes during these types of meetings are to be done by roll call, so members’ votes are recorded.

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Lawmakers suspend TNReady testing

9:54 AM CT, March 18

House and Senate committees passed legislation this morning suspending TNReady testing for spring 2020, responding to the tornadoes that struck Middle Tennessee and the COVID-19 pandemic spreading across Tennessee.

The move comes after every school system in the state opted to close schools by Friday through the end of March at the request of Gov. Bill Lee.

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Methodist ending visiting, canceling elective surgeries, diagnostic screenings

9:13 AM CT, March 18

 Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is limiting visitors effective Thursday, March 19. All visiting is being suspended until the transmission of COVID-19 is no longer a threat in the community. No visitors will be allowed in rooms of patients with pending or positive COVID-19 tests.

Visitors will be allowed in certain situations, including parents and guardians visiting minor children. Exceptions also include:

  • Obstetric patients may have one support person to accompany them.
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit patients may have two parents visiting. They must remain in the room the duration of the visit.
  • Patients at end-of-life may have a very limited number of visitors who must remain in the room for the duration of the visit.
  • Patients where the family member provides safety (e.g., altered mental or physical status or developmental delay) or is key to patient care (e.g., disruptive behavior) may have one visitor. That person must stay in the room for the duration of the visit.
  • Patients requiring a home caregiver to be trained must stay in the room for the duration of the visit.
  • Patients undergoing surgery or procedures may have one visitor before and immediately after the procedure/surgery

The hospital will begin canceling elective procedures effective Monday, March 23. It is also canceling routine screenings and diagnostics, including screening mammography.

It will begin employee and physician screening on Thursday, March 19, at all six of its hospitals. Screening questions will cover symptoms, exposure and travel history as well as a temperature check. The procedure will expand to Methodist’s more than 100 other locations and offices by Monday, March 23.

For more information, go to https://yourhealth.methodisthealth.org/blog/coronavirus-resource-center-covid-19-symptoms-prevention-treatment-faqs-and-more. The hospital’s COVID-19 related policies are subject to change as it continues to assess and monitor processes.

 

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Health Department announces fourth confirmed Shelby case

8:50 AM CT, March 18

Shelby County Health Department director Alisa Haushalter announced to the Shelby County Commission on Wednesday, March 18 that it confirmed a fourth case of the coronavirus on Tuesday evening.

The patient is a Shelby County resident who had not traveled out the county but did have out-of-state visitors who had mild respiratory symptoms. This person in isolation in a hospital.

The county health department is monitoring 105 people in Shelby County as of Wednesday morning.

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March 17, 2020

A quiet St. Patrick’s Day on Beale Street

11:58 PM CT, March 17

March 17, 2020, St. Patrick’s Day, fell during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what the city’s biggest tourist destination looked like when everyone is afraid to gather in large groups.

Photo gallery

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Durant tests positive; NBA re-evaluates

10:54 PM CT, March 17

Tuesday did not bring a lot of optimism about the NBA resuming its season sooner rather than later.

First there was there was word four Brooklyn Nets players, including star Kevin Durant, tested positive for COVID-19. The Grizzlies last played the Nets on March 4 in Brooklyn, or just over a week before the NBA suspended the season.

Then Tuesday evening, The Athletics’ Shams Charania, citing sources, tweeted: “Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general of the United States, spoke on the NBA’s Board of Governors call (Tuesday) and provided facts and sobering details about the coronavirus pandemic.”

Complete story.

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Farm and Fries closing indefinitely

8:56 PM CT, March 17

Farm and Fries in Germantown is closing indefinitely and might not reopen following the coronavirus outbreak, a Facebook post said.

The restaurant said in a Facebook post it thought the CDC’s recommendations for avoiding gatherings would be extended past the current eight weeks.

Even with takeout and delivery only options, they expected 50% volumes at best, which is not financially feasible for current employees.

They could reopen when health officials give clearance. However, the business will be approaching all who have expressed interest in buying the space in the past year.

The restaurant listed “restaurant groups, medical practices, retail, preschools and more” as previously interested parties. 

The post said while it’d prefer it remain an independent restaurant it realized the free-standing commercial space with its own parking was “desirable” in the suburb.

The restaurant owners have been approached by chefs and is encouraging Memphis-area entrepreneurs reach out.

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Second Presbyterian Church switches to streamed services

7:49 PM CT, March 17

Second Presbyterian is switching to streaming services and will not hold in-person services.

Ahead of services March 15, Senior Pastor George Robsertson said the congregation would meet for worship in “defiant hope,” which he said is a theme in the Bible.

However, through April 5, Palm Sunday, the congregants will not meet in its services but instead gather online. Worship will be led by pastors in the sanctuary

The 11 a.m and 6 p.m. services will be streamed from the sanctuary, members are asked to watch online at 2pc.org/live.

The 11 a.m. service can be listened to on the radio at 1210 AM and 103.1 FM.

Programs are canceled; the fitness center and Parents’ Day Out are closed through April 5.

The church also listed service opportunities for local ministries on its website.

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Bellevue Baptist moves to online services

7:42 PM CT, March 17

Bellevue Baptist Church is moving its services online for two Sundays the church announced.

March 22 and 29, the church will stream its 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. services and those wishing to watch can do so using the church’s website or Facebook page.

Additionally Wednesday night events and Life Groups are cancelled through April 4.

The church has a tradition of placing wooden crosses in yards in the weeks leading up to Easter. Those can be picked up outside east and west entrances of the church beginning Friday.

Many questions had been raised about financial giving, according to Pastor Steve Gaines. Congregants can continue to give:

  • By mail with check: Bellevue Baptist Church, Attention: Accounting, 2000 Appling Road, Cordova, TN 38016 
  • Drop-off: Offerings can be dropped inside the West Lobby
  • Online: Offering can be done online at bellevue.org/give.

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Christ Community to open appointment-only COVID-19 test site

7:02 PM CT, March 17

Christ Community Health Services will open an appointment-only COVID-19 drive-thru testing site in the parking lot of its location at 3360 Third St. on Saturday, March 21, from 8:30 am to 11:30 am.

“We know that there is a great demand for COVID-19 testing and we have been testing patients as needed in our clinics; however, we realize that people who are not our patients need access to testing, so we are opening the Third Street parking lot to serve as a drive-thru location,” CEO Shantelle Leatherwood said.

Unsure of the full testing need, Christ Community is going to offer 50 free tests on Saturday to individuals who have symptoms – fever over 100 degrees, shortness of breath or dry cough – and will schedule appointments based on completing an online form.

“Christ Community serves the individuals in our communities who have great need,” Leatherwood said. “We focused on the Third Street location because of the elderly population in that area and we want to ensure the individuals with a need have access to care.”

Individuals with symptoms seeking to be tested should text “test2020” to 91999 and follow the texting prompts.

“Offering an online option for scheduling an appointment allows us to increase efficiency,” Lance Luttrell, chief operating officer said. “We will evaluate each individual that completes the online registration and call them to discuss the appointment.”

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Southwest cancels events, changes schedule

6:54 PM CT, March 17

Southwest Tennessee Community College has canceled all scheduled campus events and activities through May 31, 2020. 

In addition, the annual commencement ceremony on May 2, at FedExForum, will be rescheduled. Events scheduled after May 31 are under review.

The college will remain open for business; however, operations will be scaled back effective March 18. Select employees will continue to work on campus, while all others will work remotely.

Normal operations are scheduled to resume April 6.

Last week, Southwest extended spring break to March 21. Classes will be held entirely online March 23-April 5. On campus instruction resumes April 6 for now.

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Marriott begins reducing workers’ hours

6:28 PM CT, March 17

Marriott International said it had begun to put employees on temporary leave or reduced hours at its managed properties in response to significant drops in demand due to coronavirus.

It was unclear Tuesday how the furloughs, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, might affect Memphis hotels, including Marriott and Sheraton brands.

Memphis-area Marriott properties are franchise operations, not corporate-managed, Metro Memphis Hotel Lodging Association president Wayne Tabor said.

Tabor said he had spoken with some Marriott managers Tuesday and they didn’t mention personnel reductions. As franchise operations, “They would make their own decisions,” he said.

However, Tabor believes personnel reductions are inevitable given the pandemic’s progression.

“My guess is, it’s coming,” he said.

Large, full-service hotels are suffering because of canceled business meetings, but smaller, limited service hotels are still seeing fairly strong demand from leisure travelers and individual business travelers.

A Marriott International statement said, “As travel restrictions and social distancing efforts around the world become more widespread, we are experiencing significant drops in demand at properties globally with an uncertain duration. We are adjusting global operations accordingly which has meant either reduction in hours or a temporary leave for many of our associates at our properties.

“Our associates will keep their health benefits during this difficult period and continue to be eligible for company-paid free short-term disability that provides income protection should they get sick,” the statement said. “We are working quickly to mitigate the impact to our business while also focusing on assisting our associates, our guests and our owners. While the ultimate impact is difficult to predict at this time given the fluidity of the situation, we remain confident in our long-term prospects.”

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Germantown closing city parks’ common use areas

8:01 PM CT, March 17

The city of Germantown has reversed course one day after it announced city parks will remain open.

The city has canceled park facility rentals and is closing park restrooms and indoor and special use facilities, according to an email sent to citizen-led commissions.

Playgrounds, tennis courts, skate parks, Forgey Dog Park, the Pickering Center and Bobby Lanier Farm Park will be closed until further notice.

The Parks and Recreation office is also closed March 19.

Open space park areas and greenway trails are open from dawn until dusk, but the city urges users to practice social distancing.

Facilities will likely reopen as public health authorities give clearance, according to an email sent to commissioners from Pam Beasley, parks and recreation director.

“While we understand this short term sacrifice affects all our lives, we hope you understand that closure of recreation programs, facilities and services is temporary and intended to keep transmission rates as low as possible,” the email stated.

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Lee proposes $200 million in grants for infrastructure, COVID-19 needs

5:09 PM CT, March 17

Gov. Bill Lee is proposing $200 million through grants for counties and cities to use for infrastructure needs and needs associated with COVID-19.

In addition, he is planning to suspend rules for childcare centers and inject $10 million into those facilities, along with making it easier for people to apply for unemployment and receive payments quicker.

People who miss work time for coronavirus will be allowed to receive unemployment payments while they miss work.

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And the band plays on

6:47 PM CT, March 17

While the effects of the coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly kept many more people home, the St. Patrick’s Day festivities still carried on at Celtic Crossing, as a sizeable crowd began to show up at the Midtown Memphis pub for lunch and live music on Tuesday, March 17.

Owner DJ Naylor said he and his staff were taking an abundance of caution when it came to cleaning and have taken other measures, such as removing seating to allow more space between guests and limiting the number of people in certain areas, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Naylor has also initiated a curb-side pickup option for customers who may have a corn beef and cabbage craving, but want to avoid the crowds.

Live music and festivities are expected to carry on through the rest of the day, though crowd size is not expected to reach typical holiday levels.

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Pink Palace Family of Museums close

5:02 PM CT, March 17

The Pink Palace Family of Museums will temporarily close its locations in the city beginning March 18. 

The sites under the Pink Palace umbrella include the Pink Palace Museum, theater and planetarium; Lichterman Nature Center; Mallory-Neely House and Magevney House.

“The Pink Palace Family of Museums has remained open these past two days in order to wind down scheduled activities,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the museums. “In just two short days, our staff has worked incredibly hard at winding down operations affecting over 11,000 people who had scheduled visits through May.”

The Pink Palace website, Facebook and Instagram pages will have content created to entertain children and adults during this period of home quarantine, Thompson said.

“We plan to roll out online services next week in order to continue to engage with the public,” he said. 

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Zoo releases social media schedule

5:37 PM CT, March 17

The Memphis Zoo will offer a look at the institution, via its animals and team members, on its social media platforms starting this week.

On 8 a.m. Wednesdays, chief zoological officer Matt Thompson will host “Zoo Dude” on the zoo’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. At noon Saturdays and 8 a.m. Sundays, Thompson will host a “Behind the Scenes” version on the zoo’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube pages.

At 9 a.m. daily, penguins Casey and Kelso will “host” “Zoo News” on the zoo’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. 

And at 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, the zoo’s animal interpreter team will host “Virtual Wild Encounters,” on the zoo’s Facebook page.

Here’s a preview:

 

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Malco to temporarily close theater locations

4:36 PM CT, March 17

Malco Theatres will temporarily close all its locations, until further notice.

“The health and safety of our guests and employees is of the highest importance,” said Malco president and chief operating officer David Tashie. “We will continue closely monitoring the situation and when given clearance, be ready to resume normal operations.”

The Memphis-based company operates cinemas in the Memphis-area – including the Majestic, Paradiso, Studio on the Square, Wolfchase and Ridgeway cinemas – as well as locations in Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Missouri. Each location will pause operations, following the close of business Tuesday, March 17.

For reopening updates and other information, customers are asked to follow Malco on Twitter and Instagram.

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Topics

coronavirus COVID-19

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