Coronavirus live blog, April 17: Grizzlies set up community fund

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 08, 2020 8:40 AM CT | Published: April 16, 2020 10:09 PM CT

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April 17, 2020

Federal court allows abortions to resume

8:52 PM CT, April 17

At the request of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee — a federal district court?in Tennessee granted an emergency motion Friday, April 17, 2020, allowing clinics to resume procedural abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision comes after Gov. Bill Lee issued a state order limiting “non-emergency” health care procedures. That order banned all abortions other than medication abortions (which involve taking pills and are only available until 11 weeks of pregnancy), despite leading national medical groups agreeing that abortion procedures are essential and time-sensitive.

 In his decision, Judge Bernard Friedman wrote, “Moreover, abortion is a time-sensitive procedure. Delaying a woman’s access to abortion even by a matter of days can result in her having to undergo a lengthier and more complex procedure that involves progressively greater health risks, or can result in her losing the right to obtain an abortion altogether. Therefore, plaintiffs have demonstrated that enforcement of EO-25 causes them irreparable harm.”

“The court’s decision today ensures that women in Tennessee can continue to make their own decisions about pregnancy and parenting based on what is best for their families,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “Abortion is time-sensitive essential health care and the COVID-19 crisis cannot be used to prevent women from obtaining abortions. Especially during a pandemic, it is crucial that women have access to a full range of health services, including abortion, to ensure their health and wellbeing.”

 “We are pleased that the courts understand the essential medical necessity of time-sensitive abortion services and that delaying such care threatens people’s health and well-being, especially during this pandemic crisis,” said Corinne Rovetti APRN-BC, co-director of the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health. “Tennesseans needing abortion services will feel enormous relief knowing they will not be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, or attempt to travel out of state in order to access this essential care.”


Suburbs extend executive orders

8:49 PM CT, April 17

Mayors in Arlington, Bartlett, Lakeland and Millington extended their executive orders Friday.

Both emergency declarations and “Safer at Home” orders are in effect for an additional seven days. Non-essential businesses should remain closed and food establishment may only offer off-site consumption options.

The “Safer at Home” order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people and encourages people to only leave home for essential trips.

Collierville and Germantown mayors put emergency declarations and “Safer at Home” orders in place that are in effect until rescinded by the respective mayor.


Governor allows more flexibility for first responders, health care personnel

3:41 PM CT, April 17
Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 28 on Friday, April 17, 2020, to amend Executive Order 15 and remove additional regulatory barriers to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19.

The order’s provisions include, among others:

  • Extending until October 1 the July 1 deadline for firefighters to obtain a medical examination making them eligible for certain employment-related cancer benefits;
  • Suspending the collaborating physician requirement for nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide increased flexibility regarding where these professionals can provide health care services to facilitate the COVID-19 response;
  • Allowing nursing school graduates waiting to take the national nursing exam to go to work during the emergency under the supervision of a licensed nurse to boost health care resources;
  • Allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to write orders for home health services to address the increased need for such services;
  • Expanding the facilities in which autopsies may be performed to address the potential need for increased autopsies;
  • Allowing medical laboratory personnel to work from home in reviewing data and reporting results;
  • Protecting HIPAA information sent by the Department of Health to first responders and law enforcement personnel by making disclosure agreements the equivalent of an emergency order
  • Extending the price gouging law for another 15-day period (the maximum allowed under law).


COVID-19 in Tennessee

9:36 AM CT, April 17



Local COVID-19 cases, change by day

9:33 AM CT, April 17



Local coronavirus cases, at a glance

9:31 AM CT, April 17



State offers free child care to families with essential jobs

3:38 PM CT, April 17

The Tennessee Department of Human Services announced Friday, April 17, 2020, new child care assistance to support families with essential workforce positions.

Through payment assistance and a network of temporary care locations, parents who work as essential employees can access child care at no cost during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency until June 15, 2020.

The COVID-19 Essential Employee Child Care Payment Assistance program is designed to help support essential workers so they can stay on the job during the COVID-19 emergency. Applications for payment assistance will be accepted online throughout the state of emergency at

After an essential employee is approved for the program, TDHS will make arrangements to pay for child care at the TDHS licensed program where the child is currently served. For those parents whose children are not already receiving care at a licensed program, you can find a list of licensed child care agencies that are open and able to accept children of essential workers online on the TDHS website at

Once the child is enrolled at a TDHS licensed program and the essential employee is approved for payment assistance, TDHS will make arrangements to pay for that child care as well. TDHS is also partnering with the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee to establish free child care for school aged children of essential workers. Through this partnership, the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs will establish a network of temporary/emergency child care locations across the state.

Essential employees with school aged children who need care will be able to register at these locations and access care at no charge during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Parents seeking care at these temporary locations, do not need to apply with TDHS first. As they are established, a listing of YMCA and Boys & Girls Club temporary/emergency care locations will be available for the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

To be eligible for either program, parents must be employees of a healthcare entity, law enforcement, first responders (EMS, Fire Departments, etc.), corrections officers, military, activated National Guard, human and social services workers, postal workers, transportation employees, restaurant workers or grocery workers. TDHS hopes to lessen the financial burden for these essential employees, whether they are using licensed child care or accessing a temporary child care location.


Mississippi reports 169 new cases, 11 more deaths

10:48 AM CT, April 17

According to Mississippi State Department of Health, the state is up to 3,793 confirmed coronavirus cases, resulting in 140 deaths.

That’s 169 more cases and 11 more deaths since yesterday’s update.

DeSoto County has 213 confirmed cases, resulting in three deaths. The agency is also monitoring an outbreak at one long-term care facility there.

Marshall County has 37 confirmed cases, resulting in two deaths.

Hinds County, where Jackson is located, has the most confirmed cases in the state: 314, resulting in five deaths. 


Grizzlies set up community fund

2:39 PM CT, April 17

Members of the Memphis Grizzlies organization – including players, coaches, front office and business operations personnel – have pooled resources to set up a “Memphis Grizzlies Community Assistance Fund” administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, a team official said on Friday afternoon.

The fund will be divided into three focus areas: education, food insecurity and support for small businesses and people in the local gig economy.

Education support will be focused on buying learning materials for Shelby County Schools, a continuation of a community effort begun by head coach Taylor Jenkins during the season. Food insecurity resources will go to the Mid-South Food Bank and MIFA’s “meals on wheels” program. The small business/gig-economy funds will contribute to the Community Foundation’s pre-existing Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.

The team official declined to specify the amount of the fund, but says that it was prompted by Grizzlies players and is designed to be distributed over multiple months


Tennessee adds 327 cases, 1 additional death

2:11 PM CT, April 17

Tennessee Department of Health reports 327 new confirmed coronavirus cases and one additional death since yesterday’s report.

The 6,589 cases have resulted in 142 deaths statewide. More than 700 -- 711-- have been hospitalized and 3,017 are considered officially recovered from the disease.

The agency reports 87,723 tested.

The agency reported 1,682 confirmed cases for Shelby County, up from the 1,616 number the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier in the day. 

In Nashville, the Metro Public Health Department reported 1,597 confirmed cases in Davidson County, resulting in 20 deaths. 


State to stagger unemployment certification days

12:43 PM CT, April 17

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has moved to a staggered schedule for unemployment claimants completing their weekly certifications.

The change will spread out the number of people certifying over three days, creating a more responsive experience for claimants using, the department announced Friday, April 17.

More than 324,000 Tennesseans have applied for unemployment benefits over the last four weeks, creating unprecedented demand on the unemployment computer system.

While claimants can certify any day of the week, most choose Sunday, putting a workload 21 times the normal rate of usage onto the system, the department said.

Starting Sunday, April 19, claimants will have access to complete their weekly certifications according to the last digit of their Social Security number.

Sunday - 0, 1, 2, 3

Monday - 4, 5, 6

Tuesday - 7, 8, 9

Wednesday through Saturday - All numbers

When a claimant tries to certify and clicks the tab – if they are accessing the system on the correct day – it will allow them to proceed. If it is not the claimant’s scheduled day, the system will not let them certify.

If a claimant misses their scheduled day, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are open certification days for any Social Security number.

Once a claimant completes the weekly certification process, their financial institution typically posts the benefit payment to their account or debit card within 48 to 72 hours.

For claimants who normally certify on Sunday, switching to a Monday or Tuesday certification will change the day of their weekly deposit.

Claimants must certify each week to ensure eligibility for benefit payments and to avoid the potential for over-payment.

If someone does not certify for a particular week, they have five weeks to go back and do so, but the state is unable to process the payment for that week until they complete the missed certification.


Strickland launches meal challenge

12:08 PM CT, April 17

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland will combine the challenges of restaurants needing business and people’s need for food, with the “Mayor’s Meal Challenge.”

With leftover campaign money, Strickland said he will pay $25 to the Mid-South Food Bank for each photo on social media showing you bought take-out food from a restaurant in Memphis. To participate, people need to get a to-go meal from a local restaurant, post a photo on social media and tag the City of Memphis and Strickland on Facebook on Twitter with the hashtags #mayorsmealchallenge and #saferathome.

This is limited to $2,500.


Strickland said the idea is borrowed from the mayor of Arlington, Texas.

During Friday’s joint COVID-19 Task Force/Shelby County Health Department meeting, Strickland pushed getting tested, saying no doctor’s referral is needed and that testing is free.

He emphasized that you must have symptoms to get tested.

“The resources are there and waiting to be used,” he said.

Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said it is important to get tested if you need to. An expansion of testing will continue with more options and locations. Again it is if you are symptomatic. At some point in the future it will be for those without symptoms.

Haushalter said capacity daily at community sites has been around 500 but that is increasing. The health care system is separate. A regular update will come on that.

Asymptomatic testing will come when we have sufficient capacity, she said.

These are the screening questions if you go without a doctor referral: fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, acute loss of taste and smell, loss of appetite. They also look for those over 65, diabetes, cardiac condition or cancer treatment. Health care workers can be tested by health care providers.

Haushalter said the increase in confirmed cases shows cases are still growing, but at a lower rate.

She said at 15,437, there is a “significant amount of testing.” But she said the number of tests needs to go up even more; 9.5% positivity rate is “fairly consistent.”

Haushalter said the current turnaround time is 24 to 48 hours. Labs have become more efficient. There will be challenges to lag time in future. But for now there is no backlog like the one we saw several weeks ago, she said.

Haushalter said it is critical to do screening in the workplace and that those who are ill stay at home -- even if it’s not COVID: “Sick people should stay home.”

Haushalter said the Cherokee testing site to open in Frayser today was delayed.

We still have capacity in ICU and acute care beds.

Haushalter said 1,247 contact investigations have been closed that identified almost 3,000 contacts.

The Health Department has two confirmed cases of COVID within the department. Another employee is a contact, but not positive.

Haushalter said there is sufficient staffing for now at the Health Department with lots of volunteers, but anticipates that may change as we reach the surge and have contingency plans. It could include temporary staffing, academic partners pitching in and calling upon the state to assist.

She said clusters are two or more cases at an institution. They have seven nursing homes and one group home they are working with.

Haushalter said there have been six nursing home COVID deaths -- three at Carriage Court and three at The Village at Germantown.

Strickland said there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and first responders. There are lots of shipments of PPE coming in with outstanding orders going forward.

Links at Whitehaven will open tomorrow under strict social distancing guidelines. It was approved by the county Health Department and Strickland said this is a test. He will expand if it goes well in Whitehaven: “We’ll see tomorrow.”

Co-existence of social distancing and reopening is “the challenge,” Strickland said. “The challenge is what is that right time.” Then it’s what industries to reopen -- will masks be required? -- Do you limit capacity?

“I do trust the process that we set up to get those answers,” he said.

If we loosen too much and see a big spike in cases we have to be prepared to tighten it up, he said.

Strickland said he still has to read President Donald Trump’s plan for reopening, but all agree it will be gradual. He said they are working with state and county and the local task force across the county, along with other major cities in the state. 

”We don’t know when that will start and we don’t know what businesses will be open for business sooner than the others,” he said. 

Look for further word on that “over the next couple of weeks.”

Strickland said “the state is not going to get out in front of us” and mandate things.

”That’s just not going to happen.” He expects the process will take two weeks to outline how and other questions about specifics.

He also said the state’s major cities have a goal to all be on the same page.

Strickland said Tuesday he will present the budget. For the current budget year, he anticipates there will be “significant budget shortfalls.” To date, there is not a shortfall but he believes it’s coming for the fourth quarter. He anticipated an even larger budget shortfall for the new fiscal year that starts July 1. He said he was not prepared to outline how they will deal with it.

He will address that on Tuesday.


St. Jude partners to launch website for global sharing on pediatric cancer, COVID

10:55 AM CT, April 17

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in partnership with the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP), Thursday launched the Global COVID-19 Observatory and Resource Center for Childhood Cancer. 

The website offers health-care providers around the world a space to share the latest data and best practices in treating pediatric cancer patients who are infected with SARS-CoV-2.

It also provides access to a pediatric cancer registry, a registration and reporting system that uses a secure, cloud-based platform to collect de-identified data from pediatric cancer patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The registry uses data from institutions around the globe and provides real-time analytics. 

“We are facing a global challenge like never before, and we need to articulate a response that brings together multiple organizations around the world,” said Dr. Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, director of St. Jude Global. “Not only is this virus placing the lives of children with cancer at risk, but it is also disrupting the entire continuum of care. Access to care around the world is limited, and our international partners, like us, are focusing substantial hospital resources on fighting COVID-19.” 

Organizers say the registry’s success depends upon robust international participation and collaboration. The global pediatric hematology and oncology community will have access to the data and will receive regularly updated summary information about reported cases--including the number of cases by country and by treatment.

“We want to be able to capture all the cases of children with cancer affected by COVID-19 and let that inform our decision-making,” said Kathy Pritchard-Jones, SIOP president. “The registry is a high-level, first-pass effort to get the information quickly because what we find out now can guide future interventions. With the data generated by the registry, we will be able to create an observatory to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on childhood cancer care and control.”

COVID-19 is worrisome for cancer patients because they already have suppressed immune systems from cancer treatments.

“Our physicians organized this platform for collecting data, sharing clinical experiences, developing online seminars and workshops, and outlining best practices for treating children with cancer and COVID-19,” said St. Jude President and CEO Dr. James R. Downing.

The website also offers resources and educational content for clinicians. Forums with trending topics and featured seminars allow clinicians worldwide to discuss COVID-19 insights and treatments. 

“There are lessons learned from countries where the pandemic peaked ahead of us,” Rodriguez-Galindo said. “We’ve already held educational sessions with physicians and infectious diseases experts from Singapore, Japan, China and Russia. These meetings have been translated to Spanish, French and Arabic. These opportunities to meet with global health care leaders will continue to be a catalyst for the registry.”


Three Village at Germantown residents dead from coronavirus

10:38 AM CT, April 17

Three residents at The Village at Germantown have died from coronavirus, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

The Health Department reported seven cases at the facility: five among residents and two among staff.

According to the facility, two of the three who died, did so in the hospital.

“All had been in and out of hospitals or other health care facilities in recent weeks or had serious underlying health conditions,” read a statement from The Village.

Two other residents who tested positive remain hospitalized and four employees who have tested positive are not working and in isolation at home, according to The Village.

Facility administrators said they informed residents and families of residents about the deaths.

“We share the sorrow of the families of those who died and celebrate the lives of those we remember as our friends and neighbors,” Michael K. Craft, chief executive officer of The Village, said in a statement. “At the same time, we continue working to protect the health and safety of our residents and our associates.

“We have taken steps to offer testing to all front-line employees who work in our healthcare units as a proactive, precautionary measure. We are not required to do so. However, we think it makes sense because some folks who have this disease are asymptomatic. We are coordinating the testing of those associates who would like to have some confirmation of the status of their health.”

According to The Village, there are no positive tests among residents or employees of The Village’s Long-Term Care, Memory Care, Assisted-Living or Independent Living areas.

The Health Department is now monitoring outbreaks at eight long-term care facilities. According to the Health Department, there have been three deaths associated with another long-term care facility, Carriage Court Assisted Living Facility.

Facility Name
Number of Deaths
Positive Residents
Positive Staff
Carriage Court Assisted Living Facility
Christian Care Center of Memphis
Parkway Health and Rehab
Heritage at Irene Woods
King’s Daughters and Sons Home
Delta Specialty Hospital
The Village at Germantown
Hancock Group Home



Shelby County confirms new 108 coronavirus cases, 3 additional deaths

10:04 AM CT, April 17

There are 108 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County as of Friday, April 17, according to the latest update from the Shelby County Health Department.

The total number of cases is 1,616 with 35 resulting in death to complications from the virus. That’s three additional deaths from the 32 reported a day prior. 

The 108 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday, April 17, in Shelby County is the third highest daily increase of newly reported cases since the crisis began in early March.

Only on two other occasions has Shelby County reported more than 100 new cases in a single day. From April 9 to April 10 there was an increase of 134 cases, while April 1 to April 2 saw the highest day-to-day spike in cases with 141.

In Shelby County, there have been 17,053 tests for coronavirus with 9.5% of those tests being positive. That’s an additional 1,386 tests reported from the day before.

Statewide, there are 6,262 cases with 141 deaths as of Thursday, April 16, according to the latest figures from the state’s health department.

In Tennessee, the total number of tests taken is 85,049 with a 7.4% positive rate.


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

12:00 PM CT, April 17

Today’s joint COVID-19 Task Force/Shelby County Health Department briefing is set to feature Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and officials from the health department. 

Watch below:


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.)


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.



coronavirus COVID-19


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