Coronavirus live blog: Hospitals can resume elective surgeries

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 18, 2020 10:43 AM CT | Published: April 27, 2020 7:49 AM 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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COVID-19 in Tennessee

4:27 PM CT, April 27

 

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Lee: hospitals can resume elective surgeries Friday

3:28 PM CT, April 27

Gov. Bill Lee said Monday more than 30,000 state employees working at home will continue to do so until May 26.

Lee said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to reauthorizing a safer at home order in case the numbers of COVID-19 surge. Restaurants and retail stores are reopening at 50% capacity this week, and hospitals will follow.

”We make adjustments to protect the public safety,” he said.

Lee announced that hospitals will be allowed to resume elective surgeries starting Friday at hospitals across the state.

Hospitals began delaying procedures even before the governor’s executive order in March, according to Wendy Long, executive director of the Tennessee Hospital Association.

The Tennessee Hospital Association Board of Directors last week voted in favor of a method for returning to surgeries. Hospitals want to be “methodical” and see what happens with the threat of the virus and take a cautious return to elective procedures, Long said.

Facilities must have protective equipment in place and methods to protect the public.

The timing and approach will be determined at the community level and tests run by hospitals to make sure they’re prepared to resume work, Long said.

The governor said he participated in a conference call with the White House Monday morning. And that the Trump Administration had been “very helpful” to his administration.

 

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Watch Gov. Bill Lee’s press briefing live

3:00 PM CT, April 27

Gov. Bill Lee’s daily coronavirus press briefing is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Watch below:

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Tennessee adds 251 cases, 3 deaths

2:25 PM CT, April 27

Tennessee has 251 more confirmed coronavirus cases and three more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Statewide there are close to 10,000 confirmed cases -- 9,918 -- and 184 deaths.

The agency reports that 154,402 tests have been administered, an increase of 6,928 since Sunday’s reporting. 

The Department of Health considers 4,720 people recovered from the disease. People are considered recovered when they have been confirmed to be asymptomatic by their local or regional health department and have completed their required isolation period or are at least 21 days past the first test confirming their illness. 

The Department of Health reports 2,327 cases in Shelby County, up seven from the 2,320 figure released earlier in the day by the Shelby County Health Department. 

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reports 2,488 cases in Davidson County and 22 deaths.

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Mid-South COVID-19 fund distributes $200,000

2:49 PM CT, April 27

The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis announced that $200,000 from the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund has been distributed to 11 organizations. 

Since March 18, $1.5 million has been distributed from the fund, which provides support to organizations impacted by the novel coronavirus. The fund makes grants weekly.

The sixth ground of grants are as follows:

  • Agape Child and Family Services: $25,000 to provide emergency assistance to families experiencing hardships as a result of the recent coronavirus outbreak 
  • Calvary Episcopal Church: $10,000 to provide clothing, food, and hygiene products to the housing-insecure 
  • CasaLuz: $5,000 to provide housing, food, and supplies to victims of domestic/sexual violence in the wake of COVID-19 
  • Catholic Charities of West TN: $25,000 to serve 4,000 individuals through its food services program and help connect unhoused people to resources 
  • Church Health: $ 25,000 to support COVID-19 testing and associated expenses 
  • Christ Community Health Services Inc.: $ 25,000 to support COVID-19 testing and associated expenses 
  • Hospitality Hub: $25,000 to work with Community Alliance for the Homeless, Division of Housing and Community Development, and MIFA to provide shelter-in-place, case management, and supportive services to those experiencing homelessness in three locations 
  • Memphis Inner City Rugby: $2,500 to provide needed supplies to its 225 families in South City, Westwood, Frayser, Hickory Hill, and Orange Mound 
  • Methodist Le Bonheur Community Outreach: $7,500 to help provide high-risk diabetes patients receive the food they need to effectively manage the disease during the outbreak
  • MIFA: $25,000 to support emergency services related to COVID-19 outbreak 
  • Salvation Army of Memphis and the Mid-South: $25,000 to provide childcare and meals to first responders and healthcare workers.

Individuals, businesses and foundations have donated $2.6 million to the fund. Those interested in learning more about the fund or donating can visit cfgm.org/COVID.

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Shelby County and Tennessee coronavirus cases and tests

7:56 AM CT, April 27

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How COVID-19 cases are growing in Shelby County and Tennessee

8:06 AM CT, April 27

 

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State pays initial jobless benefits for self-employed, gig workers

2:04 PM CT, April 27

Tennessee’s self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers who have been idled by COVID-19 will start collecting unemployment payments this week, state officials say.

The Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the first payments of $720 a week are being deposited to bank accounts and debit cards.

The state had held off on processing claims of self-employed people while reworking its claims system and handling an unprecedented surge of unemployment filings.

Self-employed people aren’t normally covered under the state unemployment insurance program, but the federal CARES Act included a provision, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, that covers them during the COVID-19 crisis.

The $2 trillion CARES Act provided an additional $600 a week, on top of the state’s normal benefit of up to $275 a week, through July 31.

A labor department release Monday, April 27, said self-employed workers would initially receive the $600 a week federal benefit plus a $120 base benefit. Amounts will later be adjusted, if the worker qualifies for a larger base benefit.

The initial payment of base benefits will be retroactive to March 15 or whenever the person first applied for unemployment. The extra $600 a week is retroactive to the week ending April 4.

The department began processing self-employed claims April 22 and continued into the weekend. It said tens of thousands of eligible people should receive payments this week.

As of April 18, 389,776 Tennesseans had filed unemployment claims in a five-week period that began March 15.

The department said it used the minimum payment method to speed up the initial benefit payment, rather than taking time to compute a weekly benefit amount based on the applicant’s wage information.

Claims can be filed by visiting www.jobs4tn.gov or calling 844-432-0969.

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Back-to-Business Framework for Memphis and Shelby County

2:02 PM CT, April 27

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, along with other mayors throughout Shelby County, revealed a plan Monday for reopening the area’s businesses. It calls for a phased-in approach. 

To see each category in its entirely, click the magnifying glass below. 

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Stryker extends offer for Wright Medical shares again

12:18 PM CT, April 27

Medical device maker Stryker has extended its tender offer to buy shares of Wright Medical to June 30.

Stryker announced the extension on Monday, April 27, after Wright Medical shareholders voted conditional approval of the sale Friday, April 24. The offer previously had been scheduled to expire Thursday.

Stryker Corp., based in Kalamazo0, Michigan, proposed Nov. 4, 2019 to acquire Wright Medical through a Netherlands-based subsidiary for $5.4 billion including equity and debt. It offered $30.75 a share for Wright Medical shares.


Stryker, Wright Medical closing in on deadline for $5.4B deal


Read More

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Methodist cuts executive pay, furloughs staff

1:01 PM CT, April 27

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is cutting executive pay 20% and furloughing employees as it tries to manage through the financial challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some cases, staff hours have been cut. The hospital system did not elaborate on specific numbers or savings.

“This public health crisis has created a ripple effect across all segments of our economy in ways most of us have never seen,” said Michael Ugwueke, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare CEO.

“Methodist, like other health care systems in the Mid-South and around the country, has seen a significant decline in revenues as a result of a more than 40 percent decline in patient volumes related to the closure of nonessential services and the mandated cancellation of non-emergency procedures to prepare for COVID patients.”

Read More

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Harris: Leaders are united on need for one plan

12:09 PM CT, April 27

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he’s not ready to reopen just yet, but here’s the framework and thought process: 

Factors include the number of cases, those hospitalized must be stable or declining for 14 days and hospitals must have capacity.

”We must get back to business the right way,” he said.

The plan’s Phase 1 itself with those factors in mind is: elective surgeries, restaurants open at 50% capacity, no communal items, paper menus and masks for servers; nonessential retail stores at 50% capacity with masks for employees, libraries at 25% capacity with masks. 

These are just some of the examples of what is in the plan. The plan is on the city, county, suburban government websites. The full framework is laid out with indicators that will be in play. 

”We will not advance from one phase to the next until the data points tell us so,” Strickland said. 

Strickland said it is too early to tell when the target date is for Phase 1 re-openings.

It is not an “exhaustive legal policy.” So questions are encouraged.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said it’s not necessarily at least 14 days given the weekend spike. She said before that the area was on a downward trend and the weekend testing included those at 201 Poplar. So statisticians will analyze weekend numbers to verify. She and Strickland both said it’s too early to tell where the clock is.

Strickland says future orders from the city will be based on these guidelines.

He said this is to set rules for Shelby County so there is consistency across the county. That may be different outside the county but their goal is to speak with one voice on the basics of this. Earlier, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said some of the suburbs may end their orders when the current orders run out which might be at the end of this week for some. None of those mayors responded specifically to that suggestion.

Harris said we have a “moral responsibility” to save lives.

“The data will drive any future reopenings just as it has in the past,” he said.

Harris said leaders are united on the need for one plan and will all work together.

He said all mayors are together on this so it’s unlikely they will have instances like that in Chattanooga where county government had a different opening schedule than city and state and that the county order takes priority. 

He said he will probably renew his emergency order on April 30, but it will be scaled back to some degree. 

Strickland said he anticipates continuing his order but revising for “back to business” directives.

“For the most part it will read identical to the county order,” he said.

Mayor Mike Wissman of Arlington said this kind of cooperation among leaders is “unheard of.”

Mark Brown was present for Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald and emphasized data must indicate we can move to different phases. 

Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner thanked residents for their patience. He said they all want businesses to reopen and the economy to get started. 

”This is not over,” he said. “Don’t relax. Don’t give up on social distancing.”

Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo said, “This is not the end. It’s only the beginning. There is light close at hand.” 

Lakeland Mayor Mike Cunningham said the group has worked “tirelessly” over several weeks on a unified plan. “It’s not something we did on the spur of the moment.”

Millington Mayor Terry Jones said we have “got to get back to business.”

Haushalter said the 14-day standard is the incubation period. That is the consideration along with who is in what beds and public health capacity to identify patients early through testing, as well as to isolate and quarantine.

Haushalter said a spike may not show up for 14 days so they will have to watch closely for several weeks to see if it increases. If they see an increase, they would make recommendations to the mayor to limit re-opening. Harris said the mayors are willing to “tighten the screws.” He said the positivity rate is an important indicator along with “data crunching.”

Haushalter said it is not as easy as saying, “We are at a certain period in the 14-day count.” We had about 10-day trend where we were downward, but need more calculations.

She said the health department will provide technical assistance to businesses in reopening with restrictions. The health department can enforce with a health officer if needed. Strickland said the city has its own order because that is what is necessary for enforcement.

Haushalter said allowing elective procedures will help with staffing levels for COVID. The 495 Union field hospital will focus on lower acuity to leave open ICU beds in hospitals.

She said the jump in positive cases is because of more testing and targeted testing in some areas of the city.

Haushalter said much of the data is analyzed and as we move forward they will work harder on looking for the moment when they can move to Phase 1 by the numbers. When we can reopen with phase one will likely be a health department directive.

She said the weekend spike doesn’t change plans. She emphasized it was focused testing in areas where they saw spikes and clusters, which is two or more cases.

Haushalter said the priority is testing those who need it most -- those who have symptoms. But randomization of testing is beginning. She says it is important that testing reflects the diversity of the city.

Haushalter said to look for pop-up testing sites ala 38118 ZIP code area which has been the focus on testing recently.

There are rules for places of worship. They are treated similarly to places of business for dropping seating capacity and masks.

Haushalter said some in quarantine need food, so they will work with families to help with that. So far they have not had to order someone to remain in quarantine. 

”People have been very cooperative,” she said.

Wissman of Arlington said there are challenges and it is those in suburbs that border neighboring counties and there is some collaboration with them to try to get a unified approach in that regard too.

“So we don’t overwhelm our resources,” he said.

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Watch live as suburban mayors and medical experts join today’s COVID-19 briefing

12:03 PM CT, April 27

An extended COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing is scheduled for noon today.

Scheduled speakers include Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman, Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald, Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner Jr., Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo, Lakeland Mayor Mike Cunningham, Millington Mayor Terry Jones, Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter, Dr. Manoj Jain (City of Memphis), Dr. John McCullers (University of Tennessee Health Science Center) and Dr. Jeff Warren (Memphis City Council District 9, Position 3).

Watch below: 

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State freezes hiring except for ‘mission critical’ areas in COVID-19 response

11:19 AM CT, April 27

The state has frozen hiring and department purchases unrelated to the state’s response to the COVID-19 responses.

The Tennessee Journal reported Finance & Administration Commissioner Butch Eley sent the hiring freeze memo to state department heads on April 23 restricting hiring except for “mission critical areas necessary for the public welfare.”

“The economic effects of the worldwide public health crisis brought on by COVID-19 will ripple through the state’s economy and have a negative impact on the state budget,” Eley’s letter says.

“Prudent” financial management for the rest of the fiscal 2019-20 fiscal year include the hiring freeze on vacant positions. It would not apply to promotions, demotions or transfers unless an increase in employee count is triggered. The fiscal year ends June 30.

The hiring freeze would affect temporary services workers as well through a statewide temporary services contract.

The freeze also affects equipment purchases not necessary for the state’s response to COVID-19 and its work-from-home initiative, which has allowed more than 30,000 state employees to avoid traveling to state offices.

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Mississippi tops 6,000 cases

11:10 AM CT, April 27

Mississippi State Department of Health reported 183 new cases of COVID-19 Monday morning for a total of 6,094 in the state.

MSDH reported five of the new cases are in DeSoto County for a total of 266. The northwest county remains at four deaths and has two long-term care facilities with outbreaks.

MSDH reported no change in Marshall County which has seen 41 cases and two deaths from complications of the novel coronavirus.

MSDH reports 63,462 tests have been administered statewide.

Hinds County has 421 cases, the highest number in the state.

Lauderdale County has the most deaths from COVID-19 complications at 19. It also has 70 long-term care facilities with outbreaks.

The department is reporting a total of 229 deaths and 679 long-term care facilities with outbreaks.

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Countywide reopening plans expected at noon

10:46 AM CT, April 27

Mayors from across Shelby County, including the six suburbs, are scheduled to appear at the noon coronavirus briefing by the local COVID-19 task force, an indication that the governments could present a unified front on the steps to reopening part of the area, including businesses.

To watch the briefing, go to The Daily Memphian’s Live Coronavirus Blog at noon.

The announcement of the daily press briefing lists Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, county Mayor Lee Harris and the mayors of Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown Lakeland and Millington as attending. The release also says it will be an “extended” meeting, probably lasting longer than the normal 30 minutes.


Road to Recovery: How does Memphis compare with Nashville in rebound from COVID-19?


Read More

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State tests more than 7,000

11:05 AM CT, April 27

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced more than 7,000 Tennesseans received free COVID-19 tests, including 465 at a Shelby County site, regardless of symptoms, during Unified Command’s second weekend of expanded testing efforts at 18 sites across the state.

“We expanded testing availability to any Tennessean who believes they need a test because testing remains one of our most important tools in tracking and mitigating the spread of COVID-19,” Lee said. “We’re grateful to the thousands of Tennesseans who came out to get tested, and we’re incredibly thankful for the efforts of our Department of Health and National Guard personnel for making these testing sites a reality.” 

Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee National Guard personnel tested 4,247 individuals on Saturday at 10 sites across all three grand divisions. Two metropolitan areas, Hamilton and Shelby counties, were added from the previous weekend with the Hamilton site operating Saturday and Sunday. 

Eight sites were operational on Sunday with 2,856 individuals tested. On both days lanes at certain sites were opened early to accommodate large lines and some sites offered “walk-up” testing to alleviate potential delays.

“We’re pleased with the number of Tennesseans who came out to get tested, and our capacity could have handled twice as many tests if needed,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. “As Tennesseans begin the process of returning to work, we strongly encourage them to take advantage of these opportunities to get a test and help us mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

Unified Command will continue expanded testing throughout the weekend of May 2-3. An updated list of available sites will be posted on the Department of Health’s website. All rural county health departments across the state offer free COVID-19 testing five days a week, in addition to drive-through sites.

A joint partnership between the Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Military and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), Unified Command was established on March 23 by Gov. Lee and serves as the state’s coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Health Department investigating Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab cluster

11:28 AM CT, April 27

The Shelby County Health Department is investigating a coronavirus cluster at Memphis Jewish Home & Rebab, according to the agency.

The Health Department reports two cases: one positive resident and one positive staff member.

Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab is located at 36 Bazeberry Road in Cordova and offers both long-term care and rehabilitation.

Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab is one of at least 12 long-term care facilities with coronavirus outbreaks that the Health Department has investigated.

Only one of those, Carriage Court Assisted Living Facility, has been deemed “resolved.”

“Once a facility has gone 28 days without a new case their outbreak or cluster is considered completed or resolved,” said Joan Carr, Health Department public information officer.

 

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Shelby County confirms 187 new cases, no deaths

10:05 AM CT, April 27

There are 187 additional reported cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, according to the Shelby County Health Department.

That’s the highest single day total in the county since the pandemic began. It also came with a significant increase in testing with an additional 1,329 reported. The second consecutive day the county reported more than 1,000 tests. 

The positive rate of the 1,329 tests reported was 14%. 

The total number of cases is 2,320 with 45 resulting in death to complications from the virus as of Monday, April 27. There were no new deaths reported Monday. 

Shelby County also reported 1,015 recoveries from the virus. 

In Shelby County, there have been 25,299 administered tests for coronavirus with 9.2% of those tests being positive. 

Statewide, there are 9,667 cases with 181 deaths as of Sunday, April 26, according to the latest figures from state’s health department.

In Tennessee, the total number of tests performed is 147,474 with a 6.6% positive rate.

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Akbari initiates COVID-19 town hall series

8:00 AM CT, April 27

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari will hold a series of COVID-19 town hall meetings to provide Memphians up-to-date information on topics such as benefits for small business and workers who lost income due to the pandemic.

 The series will start Monday, April 27, with Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. He will discuss support that is available to small business owners in Tennessee.

 On April 28, Sen. Akbari, a Memphis Democrat, will host Congressman Steve Cohen who will discuss the CARES Act and what the funding means for Memphis and Tennessee.

 “Everyone wants life to return to normal, but we have to listen to the public health experts who know how to best handle coronavirus to guide us through this health crisis,” Akbari said. “On our way to a new normal, my goal is to make our leaders accessible to the people of Memphis to answer questions and to listen to what our families are going through.”

 A full schedule town hall schedule is included below:

  •  April 27: Small Business Support

 Commissioner Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

Registration Link

  • April 28: CARES Act: What it means for Tennesseans

 U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen

 Registration Link

  •  April 29: Criminal Justice

Commissioner Tony Parker, Tennessee Department of Correction

Registration Link

  •  April 30: Unemployment Due to Covid-19

 Stamatia XiXis, legislative director for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Registration Link

  •  May 1: COVID-19 Family Support Town Hall

 Commissioner Danielle Barnes, Tennessee Department of Human Services

 Chief of Staff Whitney Page, Tennessee Department of Human Services

Registration Link

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Free drive-thru testing coming to Parkway Village

7:49 AM CT, April 27

Last week Kroger Health partnered with Cherokee Health Systems for free drive-thru coronavirus testing in Frayser.

This week the two are teaming up for free drive-thru coronavirus testing in Parkway Village. 

The second testing site will be operational 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 28 through Thursday, April 30 at 4095 American Way.

Testing will be provided for those with symptoms (such as fever, cough, fatigue, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath), as well as for healthcare workers and first responders. 

Those interested in being tested must first schedule an appointment at www.krogerhealth.com/covidtesting.

Each person coming to the American Way Shopping Center parking lot for screening must be in a vehicle, have a photo ID ready and make sure all windows are up when in the testing area.

Kroger Health said that participants can expect to get their test results in three to seven days, but that it is working to partner with labs that offer an even faster turnaround time.

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