Coronavirus live blog, April 14: Tennessee up to 5,823 cases, 124 deaths

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 15, 2020 11:13 AM CT | Published: April 13, 2020 6:01 PM CT

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April 14, 2020

Rhodes postpones commencement

10:21 PM CT, April 14

Rhodes College President Marjorie Hass sent a note to the senior class on Tuesday, telling them that their May 16 graduation had been postponed.

But it wasn’t just a note. It was an acknowledgment that all these changes may hurt too much actually be able to put into words. Here are excerpts from her note:

“Some of you have told me that you hesitate to express your real feelings about commencement because it seems like a small thing in comparison to lost lives, lost jobs and the risks that front-line medical workers and others are taking. Perhaps that is true. But loss isn’t a contest. Grief doesn’t portion itself out in rational measures.

Read More

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State park closing extended during pandemic

8:20 PM CT, April 14

:Tennessee State Parks today announced it will extend the closure of all 56 state parks as officials at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation continue to monitor health and safety guidance related to COVID-19.

 The announcement extends Tennessee State Parks’ current closure beyond the previously announced April 14. Officials are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will notify the public when parks reopen.

“We are grateful for the cooperation and understanding of Tennesseans during this difficult period,” Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said. “We are extending closure of the parks in the interest of safety for everyone.” 

 Tennessee has one of the top state park systems in the country. As the weather grew warmer, state parks saw staggering increases in visitor traffic, including from out of state visitors. While normally desirable, this increased visitation presented situations where it was difficult for park visitors and staff to maintain safe distances from each other.

 “We want to make sure that when we do reopen, visitors and our park staff can feel confident in their safety,” Bryson said. “With health and safety at the forefront, we look forward to getting people back into the outdoors – beyond their backyards and neighborhoods – to experience the natural wonders our state has to offer.”

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Baker Donelson slashes pay firmwide 20%

4:31 PM CT, April 14

The Memphis-based mega-law firm Baker Donelson is temporarily reducing pay 20% firmwide, as part of a continuing response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The more than 700-lawyer firm also said it would furlough fewer than 4% of employees.

The cuts are part of an effort to maintain cash flow in the face of a drop in business because of COVID-19.

Baker Donelson is the namesake of the late U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. and civic leader Lewis R. Donelson III, who died in 2018. The 64th largest U.S. law firm, it has more than 90 attorneys in its Memphis office, one of 21 offices nationally.

A company statement said:

“Baker Donelson has been and continues to be in a strong financial position.

“With so much of the economy shut down, we took proactive measures to prepare for the anticipated impact on collections from some of our clients and to ensure the financial stability of the firm moving forward. 

“Like many firms, these measures have included temporary 20% salary reductions across the Firm and furloughs that impacted less than 4% of the firm’s entire workforce and that were limited to employees whose jobs do not allow remote work.

“Our expectation is that all of these measures are temporary, and that we will be able to bring back the furloughed team members and restore pay to previous levels.”

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Tennessee up to 5,823 cases, 124 deaths

2:49 PM CT, April 14

According to the latest Tennessee Department of Health data, there are 5,823 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide resulting in 124 deaths.

There have been 633 hospitalizations and 1,969 people are classified as having recovered from the disease. Nearly 80,000 -- 78,831 people -- have been tested.

The agency reports 1,359 cases in Shelby County, an increase of eight from the number reported by the Shelby County Health Department earlier today.

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reports 1,457 cases in Davidson County.

 

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Christ Community to expand coronavirus testing to Frayser, Hickory Hill

2:39 PM CT, April 14

Christ Community Health Services is expanding its drive-thru testing to both its Hickory Hill and Frayser locations later this week.

Christ Community is offering drive-thru testing at its Hickory Hill location, 5366 Mendenhall Mall, from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, April 17. Drive-thru testing will also be available at Christ Community’s Frayser location, 969 Frayser Blvd., from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, April 18.

“The expansion of COVID-19 testing into the Hickory Hill and Frayser/Raleigh communities is to ensure that COVID-19 testing is accessible to those individuals within the North Memphis and the Hickory Hill areas that have not been tested and are presenting symptoms,” the release states.

Currently, Christ Community is only doing drive-thru testing at the 3362 S. Third St. location, which remains appointment-only. Coronavirus testing hours are 2 to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Those seeking to be tested for coronavirus are asked to make an appointment by texting: test2020 to 91999 or calling Christ Community at 901-842-3160.

Christ Community has tested over 500 people since it began coronavirus testing March 21, according to a news release.

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Landau Uniforms makes donation for front-line workers

2:36 PM CT, April 14

Landau Uniforms has donated more than 30,000 scrub sets to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to aid in Tennessee’s fight against COVID-19.

“We find ourselves in unprecedented times unlike any we have faced before in the world,” said Bruce Landau, CEO of Landau Uniforms Inc. “Landau is here to help during this challenging time. We are here to support our local community, Tennessee, our health care workers and our first responders.”

The company was started in 1938 by Randolph Landau, who sold workmen’s uniforms from his Model A Ford until he could open his first retail store in Memphis.

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Lee says COVID response helped state deal with storm

1:18 PM CT, April 14

Gov. Bill Lee said today that Tennessee’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, on the heels of tornado damage in Middle Tennessee, is helping the state deal with the storm that struck the Chattanooga area Monday.

For instance, his office communicates frequently with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and FEMA about the distribution of personal protective equipment statewide, which was also necessary to help Chattanooga area personnel respond to the storm’s damage.

“There’s so much coordination going on right now across this state because of the pandemic that the way to accomplish what’s happening in the middle of a tornado is actually magnified,” he said during a press conference in Chattanooga, noting TEMA and FEMA people are already on the ground there.

One change from past practices is setting up shelters for storm victims that allow for social distancing, such as hotels rather than tents.

The governor declined to say whether he believes he has the authority to reopen the economy rather than President Donald Trump, who has repeated that idea over the past two days.

“We believe here in Tennessee that the health and safety of Tennesseans is utmost. That would be true today in our response to this tornado. It’s true in our response to COVID. But we also believe that our economy cannot stay closed down for months on end, that Tennesseans need to get back to work. And we believe that those two things can be accomplished at the same time,” Lee said.

Gov. Lee extended a “stay at home” order until April 30 but also said he plans to start reopening the economy in phases and is appointing a task force headed by Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell to oversee it.

The governor noted the state’s relationship with the White House is “one of cooperation and working together.”

“We all know that it’s time for us to consider ways to begin to open economies that will continue to provide for recognition of the safety and health of our states and our citizens. That’s what Tennessee will do. I think that’s what we’ll see happen nationally. I certainly think that’s what the president is hopeful for and wants to be a part of. So we see no reason why we can’t coordinate that and have that happen in our state at the appropriate time.”

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State looking to expand testing of seniors, inmates

12:45 PM CT, April 14

The state is looking at ways to expand COVID-19 testing to other segments of the population, starting with the elderly, Gov. Bill Lee said in Chattanooga Tuesday.

Lee, who was in Chattanooga surveying tornado damage, said during a briefing that touched on COVID-19 topics that the state continues to look at ways to make testing more robust.

He said better testing of those in senior care facilities, because of their vulnerability, would be the top priority for expanded testing.

Lee said inmates in state prisons also would be targeted for broader testing. He noted that staffers at two facilities tested positive and, therefore, all staff members at those two prisons were tested. 

But he said there has been no testing of inmates because there have been no positive test results so far among inmates in those facilities.

Lee also reiterated his comments from Monday that the state is putting together a team to begin considering ways to reopen the state’s economy slowly after May 1. He said the state’s economy “cannot stay closed down for months on end.”

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Construction on Jackson Ave. field hospital will start after 495 Union

12:07 PM CT, April 14

City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said the lease is signed on Gateway shopping center, the secondary field hospital. Construction on it will starts after 495 Union.

Size at Gateway depends on size of the curve.

McGowen said they hope to sign a lease on the 495 Union field hospital this week. It will be low acuity COVID patients there and it will be the primary field hospital.

Today’s joint COVID-19 Task Force briefing also featured Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris with Dorcas Young Griffin, director of the county division of community services and officials of the Shelby County Health Department.

McGowen said that late May or early June is still a predicted surge for Memphis. He said as of now, there’s room for the surge to be absorbed in the medical system as it is now.

On reopening, McGowen said there have been internal discussions so far across the county and task force. 

”We are looking at the data, we are looking at what triggers,” they could pull on phased reopening. “It won’t be a light switch,” he said.

Harris said he and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland have been on a call today with Gov. Bill Lee about when the economy is restarted locally and statewide. 

Harris said Shelby County has vulnerable populations which means they will be “aggressive for a good while yet” in pandemic methods and precautions.

Harris said he supports $2 million before the County Commission this week for pandemic efforts. It would beef up staffing in the Health Department, as well as go toward masks, sanitizer. Also wouldgo to seed a COVID assistance fund through the Community Services Division. The fund would be $500,000 of the $2 million total. This will be in committees tomorrow.

Harris said this general idea “got stuck” in last week’s commission meeting where a similar package was defeated on a tie vote.

Harris said there will be no cost to Shelby County employees for YMCA childcare.

He said the pandemic is more than a time when you can’t eat at your favorite restaurant. 

“This is a time when livelihoods have been sacrificed. This is a time when tuition and mortgage payments have been missed.”

Young Griffin said Community Services continues to offer services although close contact is no longer possible. It’s still available by phone and by county website. 

“Many people are facing a situation that they have never faced before. ... I want to encourage each and every person who is struggling now to ensure that they check out our website. You may qualify for services we have. It does not interrupt any other assistance you might receive.”

As of April 9, $1.6 million has been raised in the COVID community fund. Half will go to immediate crises. The other half is for recovery, especially for nonprofits that have lost significant income.

The fund is administered by Community Foundation of Greater Memphis.

Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Department Health Officer, said that 14,429 have been tested so far in Shelby County with a positivity rate of 9.4%.

Randolph said testing is being enhanced, no health insurance is required.

“Let’s not give up now,” he said. “We are too close to the finish line to turn back now.”

Randolph said personnel and supplies have been a hurdle in setting up testing sites. They found people in the Health Department who will be assigned to help with specimen collection. They also have to have swabs and supplies. They are confident they will be able to expand tests, Randolph said.

Harris said just about all testing of juvenile detainees has been completed.

He also said he will renew his executive order on state of emergency later this week.

Randolph said there are three senior care facilities with cases so far. He said he was not aware of any new outbreaks in those facilities.

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Watch today’s joint COVID-19 Task Force/Health Department briefing live

12:00 PM CT, April 14

Today’s joint COVID-19 Task Force/Shelby County Health Department briefing is set to feature Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Shelby County Division of Community Services Director Dorcas Young and officials from the health department. 

Watch below:

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COVID-19 crisis abortion ban faces court challenge

10:39 AM CT, April 14

Four groups are challenging an order by Gov. Bill Lee effectively banning abortion procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Tennessee filed legal action over an April 8 order by the governor limiting “non-emergency” healthcare procedures and barring people from a procedural abortion. Patients less than 11 weeks pregnant are still allowed to have medication abortions in the state, according to a release.

“While we must do our part to protect our communities from the spread of COVID-19, the actions our state government takes must be driven by science and public health, not politics,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive direction of ACLU of Tennessee. “The COVID-19 crisis cannot be used to prevent women from obtaining abortions. Abortion is time sensitive and essential, and is not an elective procedure. You cannot just press pause on a pregnancy. During this pandemic, women must still have access to a full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including abortion, to protect their health.”

The groups have filed lawsuits in several states, and in Texas, where most abortions are prohibited, abortion providers have asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

Said Rebecca Terrell, executive director of CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, “It’s common sense that abortion is time sensitive. Our patients cannot wait until pandemic is over. They are panicking and many have no idea when or if they’ll be able to have an abortion.”

Terrell said patients are being forced to travel out of state, which hurts efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“There is no sense in denying them abortion care here in their own communities,” Terrell said in a statement.

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Mississippi tops 3,000 COVID-19 cases

10:38 AM CT, April 14

The Mississippi Department of Health is reporting 145 new cases of coronavirus in the state for a total of 3,087.

DeSoto County has 10 new cases for a total of 188 – the second most in the state, according to MSDH. The county remains at two deaths and the state is tracking an outbreak at one long-term care facility.

Marshall County had no new cases Tuesday, It remains at 34 confirmed cases and two deaths, according to MSDH.

Hinds County, which is in the Jackson metropolitan area, has the most cases with 263, MSDH reported Tuesday.

Lauderdale County has 11 deaths – the most of any county, according to MSDH.

MSDH is reporting a total of 111 deaths and outbreaks at 60 long-term care facilities.

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Shelby County confirms 82 new coronavirus cases, 2 more deaths

10:09 AM CT, April 14

There are 82 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County today since local numbers were reported yesterday morning. 

Shelby County now has 1,351 cases with 30 deaths, according to updated figures from the Shelby County Health Department.

In Shelby County, there have been 14,429 tests for coronavirus with 9.36% of those tests being positive.

Statewide, there are 5,610 cases with 109 deaths as of Monday, April 13, according to the latest data from state’s health department.

In Tennessee, the total of tests taken is 76,195 with a 7.36% positive rate.

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MATA bus driver tests positive for coronavirus

10:00 AM CT, April 14

A second employee with the Memphis Area Transit Authority has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, MATA officials announced Tuesday.

Employees were told about that employee, a bus operator, on Monday, officials said in a statement.

The bus driver had been given protective equipment and the person’s last day of work was April 3.

The first MATA employee to test positive was a maintenance worker whose last day of work was March 30. That employee had also been given personal protective equipment.

And in both cases, disinfecting and deep cleaning procedures were completed.

Across the country, a number of bus drivers have died from the coronavirus, including a Detroit driver who fell ill within days of posting an angry video on Facebook after a woman boarded the bus coughing.

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The latest coronavirus cases, by the numbers

9:05 AM CT, April 14

 

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April 13, 2020

246 hospitalized locally for COVID-19 or for suspected virus

5:04 PM CT, April 13

As the week began, 119 people with the COVID-19 virus were in local hospitals and another 127 were also hospitalized and under investigation for the virus. 

According to the Healthcare Resource Tracking System figures for Shelby County, most of the 246 were in acute care beds -- 103 “persons under investigation” -- or PUIs -- and 81 who have tested positive for the virus.


With COVID-19 tests out, number of cases uncertain


Of those in Intensive Care Unit beds locally, 38 tested positive for COVID-19 and another 24 were under investigation.

And the report shows 20 of those with the virus were on ventilators with another 13 persons under investigation for a total of 33.

Compared to numbers released by the local COVID-19 task force from Thursday, the new numbers show a significant drop in the numbers of persons under investigation in intensive care and on ventilators.

The drop could mean that test results in the interim showed that many of those under investigation for COVID-19 were sick and critically ill for other reasons.

Doctors at several of the city’s major medical institutions warned last week that the PUI numbers could change dramatically to reflect a rate of roughly 20% of those tested showing positive results for COVID-19.

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Governor extends ‘stay at home’ order

5:19 PM CT, April 13

Gov. Bill Lee extended his “shelter at home” through April 30 on Monday in an effort to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

The governor’s decision, announced in his Monday press conference, keeps nonessential businesses closed and prohibits groups of more than 10 with Tennessee passing the 5,600 mark for coronavirus cases and reaching 109 deaths.

Only businesses deemed essential are allowed to operate, and people are required to stay at home, except of activities considered essential, though the list is rather long, including outdoor exercise and trips to work, grocery stores, pharmacies and home stores.

See full story HERE.

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UTHSC offers session on telemedicine in COVID times

4:06 PM CT, April 13

 The University of Tennessee Health Science Center will host a panel of experts Tuesday, April 14, for a webinar on Telemedicine in the time of COVID-19. The webinar, from 11 a.m. to noon, is offered by the Department of Diagnostic and Health Sciences in the College of Health Professions. It is open to all.

Components include regulations, documentation and practice.

Use this link: https://zoom.us/j/988404020

 

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Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund distributes $156,500

2:39 PM CT, April 13

The Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund is distributing $156,500 this week to 10 organizations. According to the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, the fund has awarded $977,500 since Wednesday, March 18.

This week’s grants are as follows:

Community Legal Center: $2,500 to provide for the increased cost of virtual Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) consultations

Landmark Training Development Center: $5,000 to provide the residents of Orange Mound food pantry and farmers market services 

Legacy of Legends Community Development Corporation: $10,000 to provide for increased needs of the residents of Frayser as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak 

The PAIGE: $10,000 to provide COVID-19 related referrals and other support to LGBTQ+ communities of color 

Room in the Inn - Memphis: $10,000 to provide medical respite for recently discharged patients seeking shelter and considered to be medically fragile 

Society of St. Vincent de Paul: $5,000 to provide increased service due to COVID-19 to individuals experiencing homelessness 

SRVS: $6,000 to provide food and supplies to the 55 residential homes they are serving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Urban Community Ministries: $5,000 to provide transportation services to families in 38126 that do not otherwise have access services outside of their neighborhood 

Whole Child Strategies: $100,000 to provide coordinated response to the COVID-19 outbreak for families in eight neighborhoods

The Women’s Advocacy Center: $3,000 to support five women and families affected by domestic violence since COVID-19

Individual, corporate and foundation donors have contributed $1.6 million to the fund.

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