Coronavirus live blog, April 22: Tenn. adds 448 cases, largest daily increase so far

By Updated: May 08, 2020 8:38 AM CT | Published: April 21, 2020 6:16 PM CT

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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 22, 2020

Methodist joins Mayo in antibody test

5:17 PM CT, April 22

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has joined a Mayo Clinic program for treatment of patients with COVID-19.

Researchers believe that convalescent plasma, blood plasma collected from people who have recovered from COVID-19, may help patients with advanced illness Improve faster.

Researchers believe antibodies in the plasma could help patients fight the virus and recover more quickly.

“We’ve seen this virus in the Mid-South and across the country especially impact people who have pre-existing conditions like diabetes, asthma and kidney disease, among others,” said Dr.  Arthur Townsend, vice president and chief clinical transformational officer.

“An effective treatment will also help us battle this virus if another wave hits our country.”

Tuesday, a fully recovered COVID-19 patient was the first to donate convalescent plasma to the Methodist and Mayo Clinic program.

Dr. Daniel Wakefield, a 30-year-old radiation oncology resident here, says donating was the right thing to do after he recovered. He was tested after he developed a cough after working at a COVID-19 testing site in Memphis. Wakefield is now fully recovered and hopes his story will encourage others to donate convalescent plasma.

Dr. Dipen Kadaria and Dr. Amik Sodhi will develop the treatment program for Methodist patients. People interested in donating convalescent plasma must have had a verified diagnosis of COVID-19, be symptom-free and fully recovered for at least 14 days. 

The American Red Cross, Vitalant and other blood-donation sites are supporting the nationwide effort. Fully recovered COVID-19 patients should contact the American Red Cross or Vitalant for further instructions about donating plasma.

 

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COVID-19 in Tennessee

4:09 PM CT, April 22

 

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Gov. says differences in lifting restrictions in Memphis and rest of state should be clear

3:33 PM CT, April 22

Gov. Bill Lee tried to allay concerns Wednesday about confusion over the time frames for business renewals in Shelby County and rural counties, saying it should be clear to residents.

The state is set to lift “safer at home” restrictions April 30 in 89 counties and allow some businesses to reopen April 27. Memphis is set to lift restrictions May 5.

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Watch Gov. Bill Lee’s press briefing live

2:59 PM CT, April 22

Gov. Bill Lee has a press briefing scheduled for 3 p.m.

Watch below:

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Mississippi adds 178 cases, 10 deaths

2:36 PM CT, April 22

The Mississippi State Department of Health reports 178 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 10 new deaths. 

That brings the total confirmed case count to 4,894, resulting in 193 deaths.

According to the agency, 384 Mississippians are currently hospitalized related to COVID-19.

DeSoto County has 244 cases, resulting in three deaths.

Marshall County has 39 cases, resulting in two deaths.

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State to release more information on nursing home cases

2:21 PM CT, April 22

Tennessee’s COVID-19 Unified Command Group released new data Wednesday, April 22, 2020, on COVID-19 in the state’s long-term care facilities and outlined its action plan on how to prevent further cases and mitigate existing clusters within these facilities.

Starting Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Health will report the number of confirmed cases and COVID-19-related fatalities in all long-term care facilities across the state. The Department’s website will be updated every Friday at 2 p.m. to provide this data.

“This data and report give a clear picture on the risks that the virus poses to long-term care facilities and the aggressive actions the state and has taken and will continue to take to protect residents and staff,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. “We take our duties to protect both public health and patient privacy very seriously. Based upon the current development of the COVID-19 situation in Tennessee, the Department has determined that releasing this data is in the public health interest. Unified-Command stands at the ready to assist long-term care facilities in mitigating outbreaks amongst residents and staff.”

The Department of Health provides detailed plans in the attached report on how they work with long-term care facilities to protect residents and staff from COVID-19 and mitigate outbreaks. The action plans include:

  • Immediate notification of public health department of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases in residents or staff;
  • Immediate facility notification of residents and their representatives of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases inside the facility;
  • Robust and swift information gathering by Department staff in concert with the facility to determine:
  • Personal protective equipment and environmental cleaning needs;
  • The need for targeted or widespread testing of residents and staff;
  • Whether positive residents can cohort within the facility or must be relocated to hospitals for greater medical care
  • Ongoing investigation and contact tracing by Department staff, facility cleaning, and daily situation updates with the facility to ensure the facility is safe for residents and staff.

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Tennessee adds 448 cases, 9 deaths

2:11 PM CT, April 22

Tennessee has added 448 confirmed coronavirus cases and nine deaths linked to the disease, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

The increase from yesterday is the largest daily rise in cases to date. From March 31 to April 1, the statewide case count grew by 444 confirmed cases.

The amount of tests administered grew by 6,168 since yesterday’s update. Over the weekend, more than 11,000 tests were performed in a state testing blitz.

More than 4,000 people -- 4,012 -- are considered officially recovered from COVID-19 in Tennessee; 775 people have been hospitalized.

The Department of Health reported 1,924 confirmed cases for Shelby County, up 30 from the number the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier in the day.

Nashville’s Metro Public Department of Health reported 1,962 cases for Davidson County and 22 deaths. 

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How local COVID-19 cases are growing

9:53 AM CT, April 22

 

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State leaders figuring out how to spend $3.6B in federal stimulus funds

1:25 PM CT, April 22

<strong>Raumesh Akbari</strong>

Raumesh Akbari

Tennessee leaders are getting a handle on spending $3.6 billion in federal COVID-19 funds, about half of which has arrived in the state. But officials remain concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the state’s budget because the money won’t be able to replace lost state revenue.

Tennessee has received $1.8 billion so far and is scheduled to get the rest within the next week or two from Congress’ $2.2 trillion stimulus package. A large chunk of the money is to go to Shelby and Davidson counties, and the rest is to be divvied up for state departments, according to officials.

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Memphis Democrat serving on the governor’s federal financial accountability panel, said Memphis and Shelby County mayors are interested in finding out how the money can be spent since budget revenues are projected to be down, causing local spending cuts.

Read More

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Strickland: ‘Data will drive our decisions’

12:39 PM CT, April 22

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland begins the joint COVID-19 Task Force/Shelby County Health Department briefing with the “Safer at Home” extension and notes added conditions.

The meeting comes the day after Strickland extended the city’s emergency “Safer at Home” order to May 5 -- another two weeks. Also Tuesday, Strickland made a budget presentation to the Memphis City Council projecting an $80 million hole in city revenues for the new fiscal year that starts July 1 as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conditions added are effective Friday all big box retailers must implement limiting the number of people who can enter at any given time to maintain six feet distance with waiting lines inside and outside stores, also providing hand sanitizer and having employees wear face masks when in close contact.

Also in the order changes is that members of the public are encouraged to wear face masks when entering the place of business. Also fully automated car washes can reopen, but no vacuums yet.

Another change is golf courses can reopen starting this weekend as long as they do protocols which will be released later today. The city is opening five of its eight golf courses.

Strickland said most golf courses outside the city but in the county have been open with health department guidelines. The test this past weekend at the city course in Whitehaven went well. They sent code enforcement to look at private courses and they said restrictions are being followed. 

”You can play golf properly with social distancing, if you tweak some rules,” Strickland said.

”I can’t guarantee you that anyone will follow social distancing,” Strickland said in response to a question. But he said when the city gets complaints they will send code enforcement or police. He said Memphians have responded well and results show that because the curve is flattened.

Strickland said he is in constant communication with Gov. Bill Lee and mayors of other cities in the state and region. 

”Reopening our city and getting our economy moving again is vitally important. But we must get back to business the right way,” he said. “We cannot squander all the good we have done with our social distancing effort to slow the spread of the virus.”

Strickland said the number of cases must be stable for some period of time. Hospitalization too and hospitals having capacity to treat all patients. Tracing efforts must be sufficient to contain the virus. Strickland said there is more to come in the next two weeks including specific standards for these milestones.

Strickland said ideally it would be best if all cities and counties in the Memphis area were on the same page and that he believes eventually all will get there. There is a meeting at 1 p.m. of leaders on that point.

”They are all doing it with some kind of restrictions,” he said. “So it’s not like any city or any state is turning on the switch ... They are all phasing things in. it’s just the timing that will be different.”

Strickland said he anticipates the Safer at Home order will go past May 5 in some form. The economic recovery team is more involved in conditions at this point. And it will be a phased-in approach with criteria to back up moving from one phase to another. Look for that to be included in future orders. If they reach standards on May 5 could start the ramp up. If not, they will stick with conditions in place. 

”Right now it’s too early to say. ... The data will drive our decisions,” he said.

Strickland said allowing elective surgeries is being reviewed with one move affecting all hospitals. It’s being examined by the local economic recovery team.

On Memphis City Council face mask move, Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter says not everyone will have access to a mask. A scarf could be used with any general face covering.

The current order encourages use of masks, Strickland said. He said the move by Council to order the use of masks has “the right intent.”

Haushalter said the positivity rate is 9.3% and new cases are 37 since yesterday which is drop from about 50 a day in recent days. Haushalter said the positivity rate has to drop more.

Haushalter on the surge or peak: We haven’t reached it yet. But growth of cases is small indicating may be close to the peak. The highest number is expected still at the end of May, start of June, but the peak could be extended and the hospital system likely will not be overwhelmed. The data team continues to examine that.

On the true capacity of daily testing in Memphis, Haushalter said testing falls across public testing, safety net testing and hospital testing. Walgreens offered to do testing and that is awaiting state approval. They are still calculating the number of daily capacity.

Haushalter pushes expanded testing availability and for people with symptoms to take advantage of that testing.

”The more we can increase access to testing we have a better understanding of the COVID virus,” Haushalter said.

She said testing capacity is about making sure get to all different communities in the county.

We are seeing more cases among senior citizens, which are most vulnerable. 38118 is considered a hot spot and Haushalter said there will be some targeted outreach to that area in particular.

Haushalter said most deaths are the result of cluster outbreaks.

Haushalter said outbreaks in nursing homes are “disconcerting.”

Haushalter said the state is providing technical assistance with outbreaks at several nursing homes and other assisted living centers.

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

12:01 PM CT, April 22

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:

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Tennessee to distribute 5 million free cloth masks to residents

10:23 AM CT, April 22

Tennessee’s COVID-19 Unified Command is ordering 5 million cloth masks to distribute to people free of charge as the state lifts its “safer at home” order April 30, according to the group’s director, Stuart McWhorter.

“As you can imagine, wearing a mask will be encouraged, and we want to make sure all Tennesseans will have access to one. It can be washable and wearable and safe to use,” McWhorter said.  

The group is working on a distribution plan with Amazon and will provide the masks at testing centers and other outlets across the state, McWhorter told lawmakers Wednesday morning in a weekly briefing. The Daily Memphian gained access to the briefing.

In addition, the group is preparing distribution plans with local governments and emergency management service agencies to put the masks in people’s hands, he said.

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Health Department monitoring outbreaks at 10 long-term care facilities

10:12 AM CT, April 22

The Shelby County Health Department is monitoring coronavirus clusters at 10 long-term care facilities. 

Nearly half of the facilities have seen coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Health Department: four at Carriage Court Assisted Living Facility, one at Parkway Health and Rehab, one at King’s Daughters and Sons Home and four at The Village at Germantown.

 

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Cato Johnson named to governor’s board

9:50 AM CT, April 22

Cato Johnson, chief of staff/public policy and regulatory affairs of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, has been selected to serve on Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Healthcare Working Group. 

<strong>Cato Johnson</strong>

Cato Johnson

The group is meeting via Zoom three times this week before making recommendations to the Governor’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG). The ERG has assembled several working groups in various sectors to make recommendations to Lee on how each sector should operate in a post-COVID landscape.

“I’m honored,” said Johnson, who has been chief of staff and senior vice president of Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare since 1985. Prior to that, he was vice president of Corporate Affairs at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

He is on the executive committee of the University of Memphis Board of Trustees, chairman of the TennCare Medical Advisory Committee and a member of the State Board of Education and Leadership Tennessee – Class IV.

Johnson is on the Memphis and Shelby County Public Building Authority, Tennessee Hospital Association Bylaws Committee, Tennessee Hospital Association Council on Diversity, the Tennessee Hospital Association Council on Government Affairs, the Sports Entertainment Recreation Venue Review Committee, the Coalition for a Better Memphis and Generations Inc.

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Local coronavirus cases, at a glance

9:47 AM CT, April 22

 

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Testing underway at youth facility

9:17 AM CT, April 22

A child at the Memphis Center for Independence, a youth justice facility, has tested positive for the coronavirus and mass testing is underway, state officials said.

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services said it is working with the Tennessee Department of Health and the COVID-19 Unified Command to conduct a surge mass testing  event at the Memphis facility after the child tested positive on Monday, April 20.

The child is quarantined at the facility until they are cleared by the health department to return to the general program at the facility, DCS officials said in a press release.

Parents of the children at the facility are being notified of possible exposure. DCS said it is following CDC guidelines for screening and care of the children and staff at the facility. Staff have their temperature taken and are screened for symptoms of the virus.

Memphis Center for Independence or CSI is operated under contract by Youth Opportunity Investments and houses 48 children and has 60 employees working at the facility. It is a secured juvenile justice facility for males who are 13 to 18 and have been adjudicated delinquent and placed in state custody.

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Strickland extends Safer at Home order to May 5

9:14 AM CT, April 22

As expected, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has extended the city’s Safer at Home order to May 5.

With little fanfare, Strickland extended the conditions Tuesday, including the closing of nonessential businesses and other restrictions for at least another two weeks.

He made the move as he made a stark budget presentation to the Memphis City Council, estimating an $80 million shortfall in city revenues for the new fiscal year because of the pandemic.

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Shelby county confirms 37 new cases, 2 deaths

9:01 AM CT, April 22

There are 37 additional reported cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

The total number of cases is 1,894 with 41 resulting in death to complications from the virus as of Wednesday, April 22.

More than 20,000 people - 20,315 - have been tested in Shelby County with a 9.3% positive rate. 

Statewide, there are 7,394 cases with 157 deaths as of Tuesday, April 21, according to the latest figures from state’s health department.

In Tennessee, the total number of tests performed is 108,182 with a 6.8% positive rate.

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April 21, 2020

AutoZone Liberty Bowl cancels some upcoming festivities

6:13 PM CT, April 21

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl announced late Tuesday that it is postponing this year’s Distinguished Citizen Award presentation and dinner honoring Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning due to ongoing health concerns surrounding COVID-19. Manning will now be honored on June 6, 2021, at the Hilton Memphis Hotel.

The AutoZone Liberty Bowl golf classic also was postponed and now will be played at TPC-Southwind on June 7, 2021.

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Councilmen Warren and Canale proposing mandatory face masks while in public

4:28 PM CT, April 21

Memphis City Council members Dr. Jeff Warren and Ford Canale are proposing that face masks be mandatory in public within the city of Memphis. 

Warren served notice of the proposal Tuesday as the council planned for a special April 28 meeting to take up another unrelated matter.

It wasn’t clear if the mask rule would be an ordinance or a resolution. And other council members indicated they will likely have a lot of questions about how to carry out such a requirement during the special online meeting that begins at 2 p.m.

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Governor reiterates cooperation with urban mayors

3:19 PM CT, April 21

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he spoke Tuesday with mayors from Shelby County and the state’s other large urban areas.

“We reiterated our support to help these areas determine the best pathway for their reopening as well,” Lee said Tuesday during his daily press conference.

Some restrictions will stay in place to ensure safety. The state will discourage social gatherings of 10 or more and will continue to restrict visitors at nursing homes and hospitals to protect patients and healthcare workers.

Dr. Kimberly Lamar is heading a statewide health disparities task force to determine the impact on minorities to address challenges and needs to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are listening and developing strategies to make sure your voices are heard,” Lamar said in Tuesday’s press conference.

It will make sure data is solid and sites are set up to meet the needs of minorities.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center will be part of the effort, along with Meharry Medical Center.

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