Coronavirus daily blog, March 27: ‘Social nature’ of parks threatens access to them

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 30, 2020 10:37 AM CT | Published: March 27, 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.

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Confirmed cases
Shelby County
223
Metro area
315
Tennessee
1,203
U.S.
101,657

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March 27, 2020

MATA makes changes to help workers at essential businesses

5:26 PM CT, March 27

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Beale Street Music Fest rescheduled for October

4:22 PM CT, March 27

Memphis in May International Festival has released new dates for this year’s events.

Beale Street Music Festival is now scheduled for October 16-18, in Tom Lee Park. The World Championship Cooking Contest is now scheduled for Sept. 30-Oct. 3. New dates for the Great American River Run are to be announced.

Festival organizations said the Memphis in May board of directors made the decision to to move forward with festival events, after a two and a half hour online meeting yesterday, despite a projected $2 million loss for fiscal year 2020.

“For 44 years, Memphis in May has been a revenue generator for the City of Memphis, particularly through the business it brings to our tourism industry’s key segments of lodging and hospitality,” said Memphis in May President and CEO James L. Holt, in a statement. “With the difficult times those businesses are facing now, we felt it was more important than ever that we do our part to help revitalize the local economy. The Memphis in May events are a source of civic pride and unity for Memphis and the MidSouth and this fall will certainly be the time for our community to come together.”

Festival organizers say that most of the original lineup (42 of 65) will be present for the new Music Fest date. 

 

Information on refunds can be found here

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City closes athletic fields, basketball courts, dog and skateboard parks

3:05 PM CT, March 27

In a video update Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said that due to the social nature of athletic activities and certain park activities, the city is closing city-owned baseball, softball and soccer fields; basketball courts; dog parks and skateboard parks, effective immediately. 

And parks themselves could be closed, he said, if social distancing is not maintained. 

“Right now, city parks are open,” he said. “But if we continue to see what we saw yesterday at Tom Lee Park, we will have to close parks, as we did last evening when we shut down Tom Lee Park.” 

He urged sick people to stay home, that people who have been tested for the novel coronavirus isolate themselves until they get results and for those people to write down the names of people that they have made contact with, in case they do test positive, for contact tracing. 

Strickland asked employers of essential businesses to send sick employees home. 

“I cannot tell you enough how important social distancing is,” he said. “Stay six feet away, continue to wash your hands, and stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please take some personal responsibility and help us.”

He also mentioned the drive-thru testing, which started for the public today, at Tiger Lane.

 

 

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Lakeland extends executive orders until April 3

3:33 PM CT, March 27

The city of Lakeland has extended its emergency declaration and Safer at Home orders until April 3. 

Mayor Mike Cunningham’s order signed Friday said the emergency declaration and Safer at Home order were in effect for seven more days. However, they may be extended for an additional week next Friday.

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Bartlett extends executive orders for a week

2:51 PM CT, March 27

Bartlett has extended the city’s emergency declaration and shelter-in-place order until April 3.

Under the extended order by Mayor Keith McDonald, restaurants cannot allow on-site consumption and non-essential businesses must close, along with a Safer at Home order for residents.

McDonald said he may extend it next week for another seven days.

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Former Tigers star helps hand out food to families in need

2:19 PM CT, March 27

Former University of Memphis star Elliot Perry partnered with the Mid-South Food Bank to hand out food to families of the kids served by Memphis Athletic Ministries. Perry and other volunteers passed out boxes containing 14-days’ worth of food at MAM’s Grizzlies Center March 27, 2020. New Memphis Grizzlies star Justise Winslow and his mother, Robin Davis, also help make the event a reality.

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Carrier suspends operations at Collierville site

2:28 PM CT, March 27

Carrier Corp. site has suspended operations at its Collierville facility after an employee tested positive for coronavirus.

The company said it is cleaning the facility while employees are away. 

“On March 25 we learned that an employee in our Collierville facility tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19),” the company confirmed in an email statement. “We immediately suspended operations through March 27, during which time employees will continue to be paid as we deep clean and sanitize the facility. Our thoughts are with our team member and their family.

“Carrier’s priority is to ensure the health and safety of our employees, and we are working with local public health authorities to assess the risk to additional employees. We have implemented intensive and frequent sanitization in all of our operations and enhanced social distancing practices to minimize employee gatherings.”

The company did not respond to questions related to when the facility would reopen or if any employees were under quarantine.

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You may now text Tiger Lane center for appointment

2:19 PM CT, March 27

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s drive-through COVID-19 testing site at the Mid-South Fairgrounds is now open to the public by appointment. Only symptomatic individuals will be tested. The testing is free and no provider referral is required.

Text “covid” to (901) 203-5526. Patients will be connected to a online screening process to determine if symptoms merit testing. If your symptoms warrant testing, you will be given a time to come to the site, open every day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The university, working with the Shelby County Health Department and the City of Memphis, opened the drive-through testing center on March 20. It is staffed primarily by UTHSC medical students under the supervision of physician faculty. 

 

 

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Lee: A ‘surge’ is coming

2:16 PM CT, March 27

Gov. Bill Lee said Friday a “surge” is coming in confirmed coronavirus cases.

He added that testing resources have been “strained” and that increased testing is important.

“I am encouraged. I am hopeful,” Lee said in remarks at Memphis International Airport.

Lee also said there are 250 National Guard troops on the ground and another and another 100 in Smyrna with a large reserve waiting.

“This is a very serious threat that we face,” the governor said, adding Tennessee has done more testing per capita than other state.

Lee also encouraged people to take social distancing seriously.

“We’re going to get thru this crisis,” he said. “Do your part to stay apart.”

The Tennessee Health Department says there have been six deaths statewide and 1,203 cases.

Lee met for about an hour online Friday with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, County Mayor Lee Harris, Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter and state Rep. Mark White.

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Collierville mayor extends state of emergency declaration

2:10 PM CT, March 27

Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner has extended the town’s state of emergency declaration.

An order signed Friday said both the emergency declaration is in effect until rescinded.

In Friday’s executive order, Joyner also reinforced the Safer at Home order, which already is in effect until rescinded.

In a Thursday work session, Joyner and Town Administrator James Lewellen said their actions have been in line with what other municipalities in Shelby County are ordering.

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Shelby County has 223 cases; Tennessee 1,203

9:00 AM CT, March 27

The Shelby County Health Department says the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases is 223, as of Friday, March 27. The health department also reports for the first time that 2,218 people have been tested in the county.

The city’s earlier update had put the number at 254. 

In a breakdown of the largest amount of contagion by age group, the health department says 18.9% are ages 21-30; 18.9% are 31-40; and 19.8% area 51-60.

The Tennessee Department of Health update, released at 2 p.m., showed 1,203 confirmed cases statewide, including six deaths and six hospitalizations.

According to the agency, Tipton County has 10 cases; Fayette County has three.

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How local investigators track COVID around Shelby County

11:38 AM CT, March 27

Lloyd Kimble is an investigator. He doesn’t solve crimes. He doesn’t shadow unfaithful spouses for divorce attorneys, audit taxpayers, or even dive to the bottom of seas in search of sunken treasure.

No, Kimble, a 55-year-old Navy veteran, is a detective of an entirely different sort, one most people never think about.

He investigates the spread of disease.

And if you live in Memphis or Shelby County and you catch COVID-19, you can expect a call from Kimble or one of his colleagues at the Health Department.

Click here to read more.

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House approves $2.2 trillion relief package

1:59 PM CT, March 27

The record $2.2 trillion emergency relief package that Congress gave final approval to Friday is aimed at businesses caught in a public health lockdown that has closed companies and brought economic life to a standstill.

Many are at risk of running out of money and being unable to pay bills or meet daily expenses.

The idea behind the measure, cobbled together by the Fed, Congress and the White House, is to give companies and families a cash cushion to better weather the health crisis and looming recession. When it’s safe to go back to work, dine out and book airline tickets again, the thinking goes, they’ll be more financially ready to return to something closer to normal life.

“It will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help American workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar,’’ said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who helped negotiate the package.

Congress is sending a one-time payment directly to most American adults and U.S. residents with Social Security numbers. That amounts to $1,200 for single adults earning up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 for married couples earning up to $150,000, plus $500 per child. Someone filing as head of household would get the full payment if they earn $112,500 or less.

The payment is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds those thresholds, and is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.

The package will also help replace the earnings of unemployed workers for four months, providing them with their state’s unemployment benefits plus an extra $600 a week.

For the first time, gig economy workers such as Uber drivers can claim unemployment benefits, too.

The support for individuals and households is especially important because the social safety net in America isn’t as strong as it is in the wealthy developed countries of Europe.

The package includes $50 billion in tax credits for businesses that keep employees on payroll and will cover 50% of those workers’ paychecks. Companies can also defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security tax, giving them an incentive to put off layoffs at a time when ordinary business has come to a halt.

Also included is $454 billion in seed money that will allow the Federal Reserve to make roughly $4.5 trillion in loans to larger industries.

At $2.2 trillion, the money that Congress and the Trump administration are throwing at the economic crisis amounts to more than 10% of America’s gross domestic product — the broadest measurement of economic output. By comparison, President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan in the depths of the Great Recession amounted to about 5.5% of GDP.

And that doesn’t count what else the Fed is doing. It has slashed its benchmark interest rate to zero. It’s flooding financial markets with cash by buying up securities, including government and, for the first time, corporate bonds. It’s also buying so-called commercial paper, short-term IOUs that companies issue to cover operating costs such as payrolls. And it’s readying a loan program for small businesses.

For now, it seems, there’s no way to turn back the forces pulling the economy into recession for the first time in 11 years. Economists are expecting the April-June quarter to be the worst on record. The economy may plunge at an annual rate of 20% or more over those three months. Millions of Americans are expected to lose their jobs in the next few weeks. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that roughly 3.3 million Americans had filed for unemployment benefits last week — obliterating the 1982 record of 695,000.

 

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State to bolster insured restaurant deliveries during crisis

11:09 AM CT, March 27

The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance is requesting licensed insurance companies to work with restaurants and employees to make sure employees delivering food in the COVID-19 crisis are insured.

The effort is to ensure they have insurance under their personal automobile policy or a restaurant’s commercial automobile policy, according to a Friday release from the department.

An executive order by Gov. Bill Lee allows restaurants to remain open for delivery, increasing the number of workers who might be inadequately covered if they take orders to customers.

In a new bulletin, the state department is requesting licensed property and casualty insurance carriers to add delivery coverage to personal auto policies for restaurant employees delivering food for restaurants. The Commerce & Insurance Department will approve riders or endorsements within one day. The request is retroactive as well.

“This bulletin supports Gov. Lee’s Executive Order No. 17 by encouraging carriers to ensure Tennessee workers and businesses can continue operating without worrying about using a personal automobile that may not have proper automobile insurance coverage,” said TDCI Commissioner Hodgen Mainda. “During this emergency, I join Gov. Lee and others and urge all Tennesseans to continue to follow all recommended health practices and social distancing as well as the rules of the municipality.”

Restaurants and their employees are encouraged to contact the department if they need help in obtaining the right coverage. Questions about the directive can be addressed to Bill Huddleston, director of insurance, at (615) 360-4467 or Bill.Huddleston@tn.gov.

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DeSoto County reports 63 cases

10:29 AM CT, March 27

Mississippi reported 94 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday morning, and two new deaths.

DeSoto County has 63 cases, an increase of 14 since Thursday.

Marshall County has nine cases, an increase of two.

The state is reporting eight deaths – one in each of the following counties: Hancock, Harrison, Holmes, Rankin, Tippah, Tunica, Webster and Wilkinson.

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Levitt Shell postpones Wilco concert

7:16 AM CT, March 27

An April 14 concert by the rock band Wilco, the first of the Levitt Shell’s benefit concerts this season, has been postponed due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. 

Levitt Shell organizers said they hope to reschedule the performance by Wilco, led by singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy, in the spring of 2021. 

“All ticket purchases will be honored for the 2021 show,” the Levitt Shell announcement said. Look for updates on the venue website.

The series of Shell Yeah! benefit concerts support the schedule of free shows and programs through the summer and fall at the outdoor stage in Overton Park. 

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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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