Coronavirus live blog, April 16: Lee says economic reopening could focus on low-risk areas

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 08, 2020 8:40 AM CT | Published: April 16, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do

You can protect yourself and help prevent the spread of coronavirus by:

  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid close contact (within six feet) with people
  • Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean

To view the city’s stay-at-home order, click here.

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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April 16, 2020

President Trump’s proposed guidelines for relaxing social distancing

4:41 PM CT, April 16

The Washington Post shared President Donald Trump’s proposal for relaxing social distancing rules.

It can be seen below. (Click on the document to view the entire file.)

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BlueCross donating $75,000 for Memphis testing, treatment

4:55 PM CT, April 16

BlueCross BlueShield Foundation of Tennessee Foundation is donating $75,000 to the City of Memphis for COVID-19 testing, treatment and other health-related services for the uninsured.

The grant supports the expansion of free COVID-19 testing for local residents who do not have health insurance. Residents do not need a physician referral to receive testing.

“Our BlueCross mission to serve extends beyond our members,” said Roy Vaughn, executive director of the BlueCross Foundation. “And our foundation is helping support some of our community’s most vulnerable residents during this critical time.”

The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis will manage the funds.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has also donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to some health systems in the state.

Other COVID-19 related actions the company has taken includes waiving all member cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments, including hospitalizations from in-network providers through May 31; allowing early prescription refills and 90-day prescriptions to avoid increased risk of exposure and expanding access to telehealth services.

The BlueCross BlueShield Foundation earlier had committed to provide $3.25 million to food banks across Tennessee. Mid-South Food Bank already has received $750,000 of the funds.

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Governor says economic reopening could focus on low-risk areas

3:51 PM CT, April 16

Gov. Bill Lee said he sat in on a call with President Donald Trump at the White House this morning and spoke about the state’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. The president’s plan involves reopening low-risk areas across the country, and Lee said that could be followed in Tennessee.

”The more we stick to social distancing practices the more robust our reopening can be,” Lee said.

The governor said he wants business owners to share information on how COVID-19 is affecting them, which will help determine how the economy can be opened.

Tennessee saw a 3.3% day-over-day increase in cases from the previous day, the lowest rate since the crisis began, according to Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.

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Governor announces federal stimulus oversight committee

3:54 PM CT, April 16

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced the creation of the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group to ensure proper fiscal management of stimulus funds received by the state through the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The state projects a distribution of approximately $2.3 billion from the fund.

“The CARES Act has given our state critical relief to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and begin to reopen Tennessee’s economy,” said Gov. Lee. “We must ensure that these funds are spent wisely and effectively, and I’m grateful to the members of this group for their valuable input as we steward these resources and serve Tennesseans.”

Members of the group include:

  • Gov. Bill Lee
  • Lt. Gov. Randy McNally
  • House Speaker Cameron Sexton
  • Senator Bo Watson
  • Senator Raumesh Akbari
  • Rep. Pat Marsh
  • Rep. Harold Love Jr.
  • Justin P. Wilson, Comptroller of the Treasury
  • Commissioner Butch Eley, Finance & Administration
  • Stuart McWhorter, COVID-19 Unified Command

The first meeting of the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group will be held remotely on April 22.

On March 27, President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act. The largest relief package ever passed by the United State Congress, the CARES Act includes a broad array of provisions intended to support the nation’s healthcare system as well as provide direct relief to businesses, individuals, and state and local government.

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COVID-19 in Tennessee

4:25 PM CT, April 16

 

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Coronavirus numbers for Memphis

9:22 AM CT, April 16

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Coronavirus cases

9:19 AM CT, April 16

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Kustoff pushes Paycheck Protection Program

3:12 PM CT, April 16

U.S. Rep. David Kustoff, R-Memphis, called for increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program following the news that funding for it has run out.

The Paycheck Protection Program provides up to $10 million in forgivable loans to small businesses if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

“The Paycheck Protection Program has provided a lifeline to thousands of West Tennessee small businesses whose everyday operations have been disrupted due to the coronavirus. With more than 1.4 million loans granted totaling almost $350 billion, funding was expected to run out this week. Yet, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blocked legislation to renew this funding,” said Rep. Kustoff. “I urge Democrats to put their political agendas aside and deliver this critical relief to our small business owners and workers during this difficult time.”

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Watch Gov. Bill Lee’s press briefing

3:28 PM CT, April 16

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is giving a press briefing.

Watch below:

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Tennessee up to 6,262 cases, 141 deaths

2:04 PM CT, April 16

Tennessee is up to 6,262 confirmed coronavirus cases, resulting in 141 deaths, according to the latest Tennessee Department of Health data.

That’s an increase of 183 cases and 6 deaths since yesterday’s update. Nearly 700 have been hospitalized (691) and 2,786 are considered officially recovered from the disease.

Statewide, 85,049 tests have been performed, up from 80,896 yesterday. 

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Sweat: 75% of deaths are among African Americans

12:08 PM CT, April 16

Shelby County Health Department chief epidemiologist David Sweat said that we continue to see a disparate impact of coronavirus.

Seventy-five percent of those who died are African-American, he said. Males are 62% of cases overall.

More than half got the infection from close contact with another person, 27% of exposures occurred in health care settings including nursing homes, 20% of cases are travel associated.

Among those who have died, 80% or more had cardiac conditions, 33% had diabetes.

The median age of death is 57-years-old. The takeaway is to strictly adhere to shelter-in-place if these percentages are you and if you go out, go out with a mask, Sweat said.

Sweat also gave the impact on the pediatric population for the first 1,177 cases reported. Of that, 19 were pediatric cases, which is 1.6%. Pediatric means individuals less than 18 years of age.

On the African-American disparity, 68% of children diagnosed are African-American. 

”The measures we can take everywhere in our community among all our populations will work to continue flattening the curve,” Sweat said.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said on the disproportionate impact, when he renews his executive order tomorrow it will have some measures requiring all health care organizations reporting cases to include race information and other demographic information -- “a hard requirement.”

(The county emergency decree is on a week-to-week basis.)

Harris began the COVID-19 Task Force/Health Department briefing by recapping $2.5 million in county funding for the pandemic approved by the Shelby County Commission yesterday and where the money will go. 

This is outlined in our story from Linda A. Moore yesterday. 

Harris notes it includes $500,000 for expansion of testing and another $500,000 to economic development efforts through the Community Services division of county government.

Harris said the funding demonstrates that the pandemic is now on two fronts -- the virus and the economic recovery. 

”We have to slow the spread ... We are squarely focused on helping those who have lost their economic livelihood over the last few weeks,” Harris said.

Harris said Shelby County government has various flex work and work from home programs that it is using and city government has efforts as well. 

City of Memphis COO McGowen said there is still room in existing testing to test everyone who is symptomatic. He said if you feel ill get tested -- make an appointment, do a survey of symptoms and get tested.

He also made a pitch for better contact tracing: If you are feeling ill, after getting an appointment to get tested, write down all you have been in contact with two days before the onset of symptoms.

Sweat said that 15,667 people tested so far.

McGowen said on Monday they will begin giving rides to testing starting at about 15 people a day with special precautions in the vehicles.

He emphasized testing, isolation and contact tracing. McGowen said local hospital systems are ready for the surge. He said of the former Commercial Building at 495 Union, that the contract has been signed, construction begins next week and it should be open in mid-May.

On reopening, McGowen said we have to know indicators that we are ready to reopen and what are the conditions for reopening, including testing availability and contact tracing. That goes into the plan for reopening, he said.

On food, McGowen said grocers and wholesalers say there is no threat to the local food system. 

”There are no reasons to be concerned,” he said.

On those who are food insecure, McGowen said increased demand is being met by new food distribution programs. Supply for those programs is 30 days out. The Mid-South Food Bank welcomes your donation, he said.

On pets and their food supply, there is a pet food bank starting on Monday morning, (901) 636-1418 is the number to call for that. They will want to know what kind of pet and size.

The regional response fund at Community Foundation of Greater Memphis has raised more than $1.5 million so far. 

Sweat says all nursing homes where cases have showed up they have been aware of for days. He said he doesn’t know of any new cases at those facilities. He said that when cases found there immediately go to the state department of health. Then case investigation works with facility owners and takes through a list of Centers of Disease Control questions on when they put different control measures in place. 

About the supply of protective equipment, if short, they go into local government stockpiles until the nursing homes can get their own supply.

Sweat said the Health Department is balancing principles of transparency and health info privacy in releasing data. He said disclosure is on a case-by-case basis. 

The nursing home info is the first time we’ve had such a breakdown, he said.

Harris said if reporters ask, the information will be provided as it did with COVID in juvenile detention. He said one of juveniles in question refused testing because he had turned 18-years-old and refused.

To question the youth council about “new Memphis” and what it will look like, Harris says there will be “long-term protocols” in place -- an indication of where the discussions with the state on reopening the economy are going. 

On the question about a tax hike -- “I don’t know why they would be concerned about that, but I am glad they asked the question.”

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Trump names Sen. Blackburn to economic reopening panel

11:18 AM CT, April 16

President Donald Trump named Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn to his congressional task force to provide counsel on the reopening of America in the wake of COVID-19. Blackburn, a Williamson County Republican, made this statement on her selection:

 “Since the day COVID-19 reached our shores, President Trump’s resolve to defeat it has not wavered. His administration has worked day and night to identify the most effective ways to keep the American people safe, from supplying health care workers with needed equipment to aiding small business owners through a volatile economic period.

 These efforts must be complemented by legislative action that will move us through and out of this pandemic. Last month, I introduced bipartisan legislation to bring critical elements of our drug supply chain back to the United States. When it became clear that our healthcare facilities would require as much space as possible to treat COVID-19, I urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to eliminate regulations and enable the widespread use of telemedicine for routine care. This week, I asked (Defense) Secretary (Mark) Esper to identify ways to help servicemembers who may be struggling with their mental health during social distancing.

 This pandemic is affecting Americans of all backgrounds, in every sector, and figuring out how we re-open our country requires a targeted approach. I am grateful that President Trump has selected me to join that effort, and look forward to working with my colleagues to come up with a solution that serves the American people.”

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Live: Q&A with Dr. Stephen Threlkeld

1:17 PM CT, April 16
Error parsing article content.

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Shelby County should be able to test 5,000 people a day for COVID-19. So, why isn’t it?

11:21 AM CT, April 16

Health care providers will be busy Friday setting up signs, traffic cones and a big tent, turning another Memphis-area parking lot into another bulwark against the coronavirus.

A new COVID-19 drive-thru testing station is opening at Christ Community Health Services in Hickory Hill. The faith-based health care provider will open another at its clinic in Frayser on Saturday.

Efforts to expand COVID-19 testing here have been hindered by miscalculations and miscommunication, staffing, supply and safety concerns, lack of access and restrictions on access.


From beginning to end, Memphis’ testing process has challenges


Read More

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DeSoto County tops 200 cases

10:34 AM CT, April 16

Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting 12 new case of COVID-19 in DeSoto County for a total of 211. The northwest county remains at three deaths and the state department reports one long-term care facility outbreak. DeSoto County has the second-highest number of cases in the state.

MSDH reported 264 new cases of confirmed COVID-19 Thursday and seven new deaths from complications of the disease.

Marshall County has two new cases for a total of 37. It also remains at two deaths, according to MSDH’s daily report.

Hinds County, in the Jackson metropolitan area has 301 cases now – the most of any county in the state.

Lauderdale County has 12 deaths from COVID-19 complications, the most of any in the state.

The state has a total of 129 deaths and is monitoring 65 long-term care facility outbreaks.

In the last week, MSDH is reporting an increase of more than 1,600 cases and 31 deaths.

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Shelby County surpasses 1,500 coronavirus cases

10:06 AM CT, April 16

Shelby County now has 1,508 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Shelby County Health Department’s latest numbers.

As of Thursday, April 16, deaths due to complications from the virus now stand at 32. This is in comparison to the 1,432 cases and 31 deaths reported a day prior. 

There have been 15,667 total tests taken in Shelby County with a 9.6% positivity rate.

In Tennessee, there are 6,079 cases with 135 deaths as of Wednesday, April 15, according to the state’s department of health.

There have been 80,896 total tests statewide, with a positivity rate of 7.5%.

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

12:03 PM CT, April 16

Today’s joint COVID Task Force/Shelby County Health Department briefing is set to feature Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and officials from the health department. 

Watch below:

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April 15, 2020

Coronavirus testing locations

4:16 PM CT, April 15

Baptist Health – by appointment only, call 866-941-4785 

Testing is being done at Baptist Memorial Hospital-ColliervilleBaptist Minor Medical Center-Olive Branch, Pop-Up Testing at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, and Pop-Up Testing at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto

 

Christ Community Health Services Third Street Health Center – 3362 S 3rd St Memphis, TN 38109 By appointment only, call 901-842-3166 or Text “Test2020” to 91999

 

Church Health – 1350 Concourse Ave By appointment only, call (901) 272-0003

 

Memphis Health Center – 360 E. H. Crump Blvd. By appointment only, call (901) 261-2042

 

Tri State Community Health Center – 1725 Pinebrook By appointment only, call (901) 572-1573

 

Case Management, Inc – 3171 Directors Row By appointment only, call (901) 821-5880 or email COVID-19TestCMI@cmiofmemphis.org

Memphis Fairgrounds Tiger Lane Memphis, TN 38104 By appointment only, Text “covid” to 901-203-5526.

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Recommendation to keep schools closed ends 2020 prep sports season

5:10 PM CT, April 15

Gov. Bill Lee’s recommendation Wednesday that Tennessee schools remain closed the rest of the academic year has led the TSSAA to cancel the high school sports calendar for the 2019-2020 season.

The decision came after Lee’s recommendation based on the ongoing coronavirus situation.


TSSAA reiterates athletics policies while schools are closed


The decision will impact the remainder of the girls and boys Division 1 state basketball tournaments, which were suspended in March, along with the rest of the baseball, softball, boys soccer, tennis and track seasons. 

Read More

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Shelby County to spend $2.5 million in COVID-19 fight

4:32 PM CT, April 15

A resolution that spends $2 million toward coronavirus expenses and allocates $500,000 to Christ Community Health Services for expanded coronavirus testing passed in a Shelby County Commission committee meeting on Wednesday, April 15 and in a special called meeting of the full commission shortly after.

The resolution, which passed 12-0, was presented by Commissioner Tami Sawyer, who was disappointed that the commission was unable last week to coalesce around funding legislation for COVID-19 expenses.

The original $2 million expense was amended spend to $2.5 million and follows the expenditures recommended by county administration. Those include $848,000 for personal protective equipment, $828,00 to hire three social workers and a bilingual translator and $325,000 to cover overtime costs for health department and emergency management employees.

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