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Coronavirus daily blog, March 26: Strickland warns of possible reduction in services

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 17, 2020 3:44 PM CT | Published: March 26, 2020 4:00 AM CT

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Here’s the latest from Memphis and Shelby County, below, when it comes to dealing with the novel coronavirus. To view our full coverage, check out The Daily Memphian’s coronavirus landing page.

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

Confirmed cases
Shelby County
198
Metro area
263
Tennessee
957
U.S.
55,243

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March 26, 2020

Kroger distribution center employee tests positive

9:57 PM CT, March 26

Kroger has confirmed an employee at the company’s Delta Memphis Distribution Center has tested positive for COVID-19.

Teresa Dickerson, corporate affairs manager, said the employee has not been in the facility since Saturday, but did not answer questions about the possibility of other employees being exposed.

Kroger’s Delta Division Distribution Center is in the South Riverdale-area.

She also did not answer if food-service delivery would be affected at stores. Kroger’s Delta Division includes metropolitan areas of Memphis, Little Rock and Jackson, Mississippi.

“The safety of our associates and customers is our top priority,” Dickerson said by email. “The distribution center has been thoroughly deep cleaned and sanitized. We are supporting the individual, following guidelines from local officials and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all employees at our site.”

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Memphis Italian Festival canceled

7:14 PM CT, March 26

The 31st Memphis Italian Festival is canceled.

The event organizers confirmed on Facebook, they were directed to cancel the event. The event was scheduled for May 28-30, later this spring.

Next year’s event is scheduled for May 27-29, 2021.

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Collierville suspends recycling until further notice

7:09 PM CT, March 26

Collierville will not be collecting recyclables until further notice.

Residents can hang on to their recyclables until service resumes, or place them in their recycling bin on the curb on their regularly scheduled collection day. Items on the curb will be taken to the landfill.

Town Administrator James Lewellen told the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in a Thursday work session of the issue.

Collierville’s recyclables are sorted at the West TN Recycling Hub, and about 75% of individuals on the sorting line are inmates. As they are not allowed to leave prison facilities due to COVID-19, there are not enough employees to do the work.

Collierville hoped the issue would be resolved by Monday, but Thursday confirmed the facility in Henderson, Tennessee, does not have a solution.

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Chamber releases latest COVID-19 impact survey

4:31 PM CT, March 26

The Greater Memphis Chamber released its latest COVID-19 Greater Memphis Business Impact Survey Thursday, March 26, as it works to show the impact the pandemic has had on local businesses.

This survey includes responses from 231 local business owners. The second survey was distributed to Greater Memphis Chamber businesses March 23. The data estimates the following based on those survey responses.

  • 34% of respondents have laid off staff
  • 72% of respondents currently remain open
  • 50% of respondents have moved employees to remote work
  • Off those layoffs, 52% of those surveyed laid off fewer than 10 workers
  • 38% of respondents said they don’t anticipate layoffs in the next two weeks. 40% responded it is too early to tell.

The chamber also shared results from the food/beverage and travel/leisure/entertainment businesses. They made up 19% of overall respondents. 

  • 95% of those respondents have made changes to business hours or hourly work schedules.
  • 39% have not laid off staff.

“We are in constant contact with the local business community and we are translating the information they share with our local and state government leaders in a united effort to help Memphis and Shelby County minimize the impact of COVID-19-related disruptions to our economy,” said Beverly Robertson, president and CEO of the chamber.

Unemployment crisis: State jobless numbers jump, 4,355 claims in greater Memphis

“The public and private sector are working hand in hand to help ensure that we retain as many jobs as we can and that we connect our businesses with the resources they need to stay afloat in this challenging climate,” Robertson said. 

The survey can be accessed through the COVID-19 Business Resources Page from the chamber’s website at www.memphischamber.com.

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Some golf courses to reopen

4:21 PM CT, March 26

There’s been a change to the list of nonessential businesses closed in the county outside the city: Golf courses are now considered essential businesses that can remain open, but only in unincorporated areas of Shelby County covered by a separate state of civil emergency proclamation.

Golf courses within the city of Memphis, public and private, are still considered nonessential businesses that much be closed, the Strickland administration confirmed Thursday afternoon. The city closed municipal golf courses because of the crowds on the courses.

Meanwhile, Mirimichi Golf Course in north Shelby County plans to reopen Friday.

“We have increased our precautions to ensure the safety of all our guests and employees during this time including increased sanitization of tools and equipment, restricting removal of flagsticks, restricting clubhouse access only for the sale of to-go food and beverage, flipping hole cups upside down so ball retrieval if easier and mandatory single care usage,” said Blake Rogers, director of operations at Mirimichi.

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Rallings in self-isolation

4:13 PM CT, March 26

The Memphis Police Department confirmed Thursday, March 26, that Director Michael Rallings is in self-isolation, though it isn’t clear where he’s been.

Rallings may have accompanied the local delegation that visited the African nation of Ghana as part of a Memphis In May trip, but MPD spokeswoman Karen Rudolph did not confirm that’s the reason for Rallings’ action.

“The Director is currently on self-isolation in accordance with our current travel policy,” Rudolph said simply by email Thursday afternoon.

She said he was on self-isolation for 14 days because of “personal travel.”

Read more here

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State looks to COVID projections, retired physicians in epidemic

3:57 PM CT, March 26

Gov. Bill Lee says the state is working with Vanderbilt University Medical Center to come up with COVID-19 projections; the estimates, including possible numbers of personal protection equipment and hospital beds needed, should help it prepare for work needed to stem the spread of the disease.

The governor also signed an executive order enabling retired physicians to start work again without having to go through education requirements.

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After city employees diagnosed with COVID-19, Strickland raises possibility of service reductions

3:22 PM CT, March 26

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in his daily COVID-19 update that 11 of more than 8,000 city employees have tested positive for the virus.

“As we move through this pandemic, I want to prepare you that there may come a time when we must reduce your city services due to city employees becoming infected with the virus,” he wrote in the email. “We know that number is only going to rise and more employees will be quarantined because they will come in contact with someone with virus. The precautionary measures the we have put in place within City government have limited potential spread of COVID-19, and we are closely monitoring employees for any symptoms.”

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State partners with retailers to aid jobless

3:21 PM CT, March 26

To cope with the escalating unemployment rate, the state is starting a public-private partnership with the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, the Tennessee Retail Association and Hospitality Tennessee to create the Tennessee Talent Exchange at Jobs4TN.gov.

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MATA reducing bus schedule

4:01 PM CT, March 26

As of Monday, March 30, and until further notice, MATA will operate on its Sunday schedule every day, though it will add some additional service to provide connections to essential services. 

 

The bus schedule routes that will still be in service are the following: 

  • 2 Madison
  • 4 Walker
  • 8 Chelsea
  • 11 Frayser Raleigh
  • 26 Hickory Hill
  • 36 Hacks Cross
  • 39 S Third
  • 40 Wolfchase
  • 42 Crosstown
  • 50 Poplar
  • 52 Jackson
  • 53 Summer
  • 56 Lamar
  • 57 Park
  • 64 Airport Shuttle

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Hearings set about releasing youth from detention over COVID-19

3:06 PM CT, March 26

Memphis-Shelby County Juvenile Court will hold a limited number of trials and hearings beginning next week in an effort to reduce the number of children held in detention as a safety measure in response to COVID-19.

Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael announced the hearings in an emailed statement Thursday, March 26.

“In response to the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of the coronavirus locally and statewide, the Juvenile Court of Memphis & Shelby County and the Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office will remain committed and ever vigilant to running its daily operations with “safety first priority” guidelines designed to reduce the risk and hopefully eliminate the possibility of contracting COVID-19 by Juvenile Court & Clerk staff and the children and families we serve,” Michael wrote.

Last week, Josh Spickler, executive director of Just City, a criminal justice advocacy group in Memphis, urged Shelby County officials including Michael and Sheriff Floyd Bonner in a March 19 letter to release the 100 children detained at the juvenile detention center to reduce the impact of coronavirus.


Spickler calls for release of juveniles


In-person visitations are already suspended at the downtown juvenile detention center and most in-person court proceedings have been suspended by the state Supreme Court until April 30 with the exception of cases including emergency matters and COVID-19 related matters.

“A limited number of trials and hearings will take place for those children currently housed in detention starting on April 1, 2020, in order to try and reduce the Juvenile Detention population as an overall safety measure during this time of emergency status,” Michael wrote.

As a precaution against the virus, all in-person court proceedings are limited to attorneys, witnesses, security officers and “other necessary persons, as determined by the trial judge.”

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Shelby County COVID-19 cases at 198 Thursday afternoon

2:00 PM CT, March 26

Shelby County has 198 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Thursday, health officials announced at a 2 p.m. briefing, up from 170 the day before.

There were 957 confirmed cases statewide.

David Sweat, head of epidemiology for the county, said stay-in-place orders are helping with the spread, but the county has not reached its plateau of cases yet.

“Right now is not the time for welcoming hugs,” he said.

“Seniors and others at any age with underlying conditions, such as asthma in those at any age, increases your risk of serious illness with this virus,” he said.

Sweat reiterated the same warnings other officials have been giving for weeks, to stay at home and not go to work if you are ill and to avoid places where people are gathered.

Sweat said 463 have gone through the monitoring process, including people who have cleared and those being monitored now.

Access to testing sites are increasing, which is bringing in new data streams.

“We welcome all labs that can bring testing capacity into the community,” he said.

“We are concerned about the transmission rate. ... It (virus) produces more cases than influenza... and we know that can create spikes for health care system,” Sweat said. 

No data was given on how many people in Shelby County are currently hospitalized with the virus.

He described the load on the health care system right now as manageable, which is why adherence to social distancing directives is important.

“We know how many cases have come in. ... we are operating 7 days a week and rotating teams of investigators through,” he said.

A large team of investigators are working at any moment and many employees at the health department are being moved to COVID-19 to help track contacts of those confirmed to help limit the spread.

“The health care sector is not overwhelmed and not does not show critical stress. And we are tying to keep it that way.”

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Civil Rights Museum plans virtual observance

1:14 PM CT, March 26

The National Civil Rights Museum, built on the site where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, has been the focal point of the local commemoration since before it was the museum, when it was still the Lorraine Motel. It is one of the busiest days the museum has in terms of attendance as well as visitors who come just for speeches and performances in the museum’s courtyard.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum announced Thursday it will retool the event to be livestreamed on various platforms including the museum’s website, YouTube, Facebook and Livestream.

The stream will include excerpts from past commemorations as well as the series of events in 2018 that marked the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers strike and King’s death. There will be archived speeches by civil rights leaders Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. James Lawson as well as Omid Safi, head of Islamic Studies at Duke University. The MLK50 Legacy Choir will perform with a spoken word performance by Ed Mabrey.

“We should always stop and reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King on April 4,” NCRM president Terri Lee Freeman said. “But this year it is needed more than ever as we try to navigate through this public health crisis.”

“We are seeing the devastation this crisis is taking not just on the health of our communities, but on the economic well being of our neighbors,” she said. “We are seeing just how fragile the financial safety net is for far too many people. Celebrating King’s acceptance of humanity, but disdain of inequity and injustice, is very important in 2020.”

The museum is seeking social media submissions on April 4 from musicians of “Precious Lord,” the gospel song King asked to be played at a rally he was to attend in Memphis just before he was shot.

The museum will also display on line never before seen letters sent to the Lorraine Hotel by citizens in the aftermath of the assassination.

There will be a timeline of events in the strike as part of the commemoration and an ability for those watching to interact and share their stories and thoughts about King’s legacy. Some of the comments will be shared during the observance.

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DeSoto County has most COVID-19 cases in Mississippi

10:16 AM CT, March 26

Mississippi State Department of Health reported 108 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Magnolia State Thursday morning.

The state has 105, and DeSoto County has 49, the most of any county. Marshall County has three new cases for a total of seven.

MSDH is reporting five deaths. Hancock, Holmes, Tunica, Webster and Wilkinson are each reporting deaths.

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Penny joins state effort to ‘stay apart’

9:55 AM CT, March 26

Just as he eluded defenders on the court, University of Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway is using his skills for a Tennessee public services campaign, “Do Your Part, Stay Apart.”

Hardaway is joining Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee and several other celebrities to reach Tennesseans through a social media campaign to avert the spread of COVID-19.

 

The Tigers coach and former Memphis star and other recognizable Tennesseans such as former Titans running back Eddie George and his wife, Taj, UT athletics director Phil Fulmer and his wife, Vicky, entertainers Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith and Cece Winans displayed “safe social distancing” by recording messages from their homes to emphasize people need to stay home during the coronavirus crisis and avoid getting together with friends, going to church gatherings and keeping a 6-foot distance from others for essential trips to the grocery store and drug store.

“COVID-19 is a serious threat to the health and livelihood of our state that must be treated seriously by Tennesseans so that we can slow the spread of this virus, keep our people healthy and get our lives back to normal as soon as possible,” Gov. Lee said. “Involving influential Tennesseans will help us reach more of our citizens to drive home the message that the only way to beat the virus is to stop it from spreading. Maria and I are deeply grateful to the individuals in this campaign who are utilizing their tremendous public influence and reach to protect the health of their fellow Tennesseans.”

The public service messages also encourage people to keep an eye out for neighbors who need help or may be vulnerable to the disease by giving them a call or video chat.

The campaign is to launch on social media #TNStayApart, @GovBillLee and @TNDeptofHealth.

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Record number of unemployment claims filed, state number soars

9:07 AM CT, March 26

Weekly unemployment claims nationally soared the week ending March 21 due to coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday morning, March 26.

In Tennessee, 39,096 claims were filed the week ending March 21, the department reported, which compared to only 2,702 the week before.

The advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 3,283,000, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week’s revised level.

It marked the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series. The previous high was 695,000 in October of 1982, the department said.

Those in Tennessee filing unemployment will need to be patient. A notice on the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development website for filers notes the agency is trying to increase its capacity to handle all filings, but there have been delays due to the high volume of claims filed in the last seven days.

You can access the department’s website to file and get more information here.

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Three businesses file Memphis layoffs with the state

8:35 AM CT, March 26

Three Shelby County businesses have filed WARN notices with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development saying they have laid off a combined 148 workers.

Corky’s Ribs & BBQ laid off 61 employees effective March 20, according to its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN notice with the state.

Higginbotham Family Dental told the state it laid off 17 employees effective March 24.

And Summit Management Corp. laid off 70 Memphis employees from three of its local properties effective March 23, according to a WARN notice.

Summit is a real estate management and development company specializing in hotel, office and residential properties. 

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March 25, 2020

GMSD 5K Stampede and Color Run delayed amid growing COVID-19 concerns

9:15 PM CT, March 25

Due to growing concerns over COVID-19, Germantown Education Foundation has postponed its annual 5K and color run until Sunday, June 14.

Germantown Education Foundation a non-profit dedicated to raising funds for Germantown Municipal School District, was scheduled to host the annual spring fundraiser April 26.

Registration for the June fundraiser is open online.

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Germantown cancels most commission meetings through June 30

6:22 PM CT, March 25

The city of Germantown told various citizen-led commissions Wednesday afternoon most commission meetings are canceled through the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

The city has canceled all meetings up until April 7, which is the next scheduled Financial Advisory Commission.

The FAC has more than 20 members. The city has not yet announced electronic meetings, but is exploring options.

Planning, Finance and Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings are the only city meetings continuing at this time. 

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