Coronavirus live blog, April 30: Watch interview with Ernie Mellor

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 08, 2020 8:31 AM CT | Published: April 30, 2020 9:17 AM CT

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April 30, 2020

Watch exclusive interview with Ernie Mellor

6:01 PM CT, April 30

The president of the Memphis Restaurant Association joins Eric Barnes to talk about the heavy economic toll COVID-19 has had on local restaurants — and the difficulties restaurants face in reopening. See video above.

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Trump enters briefing with Lee at his side

3:34 PM CT, April 30

President Donald Trump entered his Thursday press briefing accompanied by Gov. Bill Lee where he announced he would be signing a proclamation for May to be a month focusing on older Americans. He proposed plans to further protect nursing homes.

Calling Lee his “friend,” Trump “mourned every precious life lost” to the disease but said the nation has held its mortality rate below that of other nations such as Sweden.

“We’ve moved at a speed people are absolutely stunned to see,” Trump said, referring to a vaccine by Gilead.

The president noted steps taken at nursing homes nationwide to stem the spread of the virus.

Tennessee Department of Health statistics show the large majority of deaths linked to COVID-19 have come in the upper age brackets, 166 of them for people over age 61, about 85%, and 19 deaths for those 60 and under.

In addition to plans for saturating long-term care facilities with testing, including a partnership with National Health Care Corp., the state already has policy requiring nursing homes to notify the state immediately when a COVID-19 case is confirmed.

Guidelines are in place, too, for facilities to handle those situations. Action was spurred largely by an outbreak at a Gallatin nursing home in early April where about 20 people succumbed to the disease after they were infected.

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Lee touts state plan to increase testing in nursing homes

3:52 PM CT, April 30

In line with a plan to start testing 70,000 in Tennessee’s long-term care facilities, Gov. Bill Lee touted his plan at the White House Thursday, April 30, 2020, with President Donald Trump.

“We’re strengthening our commitment particularly to the elderly, the most vulnerable of our citizens,” Lee said.

The state plans to test residents and staff in every nursing home in the state, the governor said, as part of the state’s goal of testing 2% of its population every month.

“It’ll be a great undertaking, but it’ll honor the value of those lives,” he said, alluding to the Greatest Generation.

Lee noted the importance of social distancing and said he hadn’t hugged his own elderly mother in eight weeks.

The Republican governor participated in a briefing with the president on a plan called Protecting America’s Seniors, a move designed to stop COVID-19 from spreading into the nation’s nursing homes where the residents’ health is most fragile.

The pandemic is taking its toll heavily on seniors, at least in Tennessee.

President Trump entered his Thursday press briefing accompanied by Lee where he announced he would be signing a proclamation for May to be a month focusing on older Americans. He proposed plans to further protect nursing homes.

Calling Lee his “friend,” Trump “mourned every precious life lost” to the disease but said the nation has held its mortality rate below that of other nations such as Sweden.

“We’ve moved at a speed people are absolutely stunned to see,” Trump said, referring to an antiviral called remdesivir made by Gilead.

The president noted steps taken at nursing homes nationwide to stem the spread of the virus.

Tennessee Department of Health statistics show the large majority of deaths linked to COVID-19 have come in the upper age brackets, 166 of them for people over age 61, about 85%, and 19 deaths for those 60 and under.

In addition to plans for saturating long-term care facilities with testing, including a partnership with National Health Care Corp., the state already has policy requiring nursing homes to notify the state immediately when a COVID-19 case is confirmed.

Guidelines are in place, too, for facilities to handle those situations. Action was spurred largely by an outbreak at a Gallatin nursing home in early April where about 20 people succumbed to the disease after they were infected.

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State to test all nursing home residents, staff

5:37 PM CT, April 30

Gov. Bill Lee said he took a Southwest flight to Washington, D.C. today with about 15 other people and wore a mask during the trip to avoid COVID-19 infection. At the White House, where he took part in a press briefing with President Donald Trump, he took a test and waited on its results before entering the briefing.

Lee said he wants to focus on steering the budget through the COVID-19 pandemic and won’t push for passage of his constitutional carry and abortion restriction bills.

During interviews with reporters while waiting to board a plane in D.C., the governor said he has spoken with legislative leaders and conveyed to them the importance to handling the budget with revenue projections expected to take a hit because of the public health crisis.

The governor said the state will be working with 700 nursing homes in the state to have testing done for all 70,000 residents and thousands more staff members.

“They’re the most vulnerable, they need the most help,” Lee said.

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Tennessee adds 369 cases, 4 deaths

4:28 PM CT, April 30

Tennessee has 369 more confirmed coronavirus cases and four more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. 

That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 10,735; there have been 199 deaths.

Since yesterday’s update, an additional 9,077 tests have been administered bringing that total to 177,626.

Statewide, 5,338 are considered officially recovered form the disease; 1,045 have been hospitalized.

The state reports 2,507 cases for Shelby County, up from the 2,484 the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier in the day. 

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reports 2,669 confirmed cases in Davidson County, resulting in 25 deaths.

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State releases guidance for barbers, beauty shops in 89 counties to open

2:42 PM CT, April 30

Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group released guidance for close contact services today, enabling over 38,000 workers to resume business in 89 of the state’s 95 counties on May 6. Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – will create individual plans in consultation with their locally-run health departments.

“As we continue a measured reopening of the economy, it’s critical we provide evidence-based guidance to businesses so they can keep their employees and customers safe,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. “The very nature of close contact businesses calls for strong solutions and we’re inspired by the willingness of these small business owners to take the Tennessee Pledge. These guidelines will allow thousands of businesses to reopen, put their employees back to work, and serve customers in a thoughtful and safe manner.”

In addition to the recommendations included within the Tennessee Pledge, the state recommends strict adherence to CDC guidelines. The state’s guidance applies to personal services including barbershops, hair salons, waxing salons, nail spas, massage therapy services and substantially similar businesses that require prolonged close contact with customers.

The full guidelines are posted online at TNPledge.com and include:

Business Process Adaptations

  • Limit the number of customers to 50% of fire code capacity, and practice strict social distancing between customers
  • Services will be offered by appointment only; no walk-ins
  • Make appropriate physical modifications to accommodate social distancing. Workstations should be at least six feet apart, with additional measures taken as necessary to ensure that all people stay six feet apart at all times except for the staff providing a service to their client; physical barriers to be used where necessary
  • Prohibit use of waiting areas (e.g., could adopt such practices as notifying customers by call or text message) or serenity lounges; limit use of other common areas by multiple people at one time (e.g., elevators, breakrooms, etc.)
  • Ensure thorough workstation and equipment disinfection after each customer (i.e. sanitize all equipment, instruments, capes, smocks, linens, chairs and work area); alternatively, utilize single-use or disposable items
  • Implement enhanced sanitization of commonly touched surfaces and equipment (i.e., at least every two hours and when visibly soiled), using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended sanitizers and disinfecting protocols
  • Discard any single-use tools (e.g., files, buffers, neck strips) immediately after use
  • Daily deep cleaning and sanitization to be completed for high-touch areas (tanning beds, massage tables, salon chairs, etc.)
  • Use appropriate temperatures for washers and dryers to ensure thorough sanitization of towels, linens, etc.
  • Do not allow non-customer companions to accompany customer during a service
  • Do not allow group or communal settings for close contact personal services (e.g., couples’ massages, salt rooms, saunas, pools)

Consumer Protection

  • Services that require removing face coverings (e.g., beard shaving/trimming, facials, etc.) are not permitted in Phase 1
  • Do not offer any self-serve food or beverages. Temporarily close water fountains. Encourage users to provide their own water 
  • Prohibit congregating in break rooms, check-in counters
  • Customers should wear a cloth face covering at all times while in the premises (not N-95 or medical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers) and as recommended by the CDC and executive order of the governor. Use other personal protection items as recommended by the CDC
  • For massage, prone positions could be uncomfortable or dangerous for clients who are wearing face coverings. Accordingly, massage professionals may consider other appropriate precautions such as draping a client’s head and face cradle cover with a thin cotton pillowcase. Otherwise, a face covering should be worn during portions of treatment in which the client is not prone or facedown
  • Screen customers for illness upon their entry into the premises

Employee Protection

  • Screen and temperature-check all employees reporting to work for COVID-19 symptoms
  • Employees should increase hygiene practices—wash hands more frequently, avoid touching face, practice good respiratory etiquette when coughing or sneezing. Change any protective garments on a regular basis and sanitize reusable garments such as aprons or smocks at least once per day.
  • Employees should wear a cloth face covering (not N-95 or medical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers) and other personal protection items as recommended by the CDC; if masks become wet or visibly dirty, the mask should be replaced
  • All employees should wash hands between serving each customer, and more frequently as necessary. If appropriate for the service provided, gloves are recommended and should be discarded after each customer. The use of gloves should not be considered a replacement for frequent handwashing
  • Perform regular disinfection of high-touch surface areas (e.g., door handles, counter space, light switches, tools and instruments) at least every two hours and when visibly dirty

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Your quick list of what can open on Monday

2:41 PM CT, April 30

The May 4 reopening in Memphis, Shelby County and the county’s suburban cities and towns doesn’t include all businesses. And among those that are included, there will still be restrictions that are fully outlined here.

But in a nutshell, here’s what can and cannot resume business:

 

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UT plans to keep tuition the same

1:59 PM CT, April 30

For the academic year that begins in fall 2020, all University of Tennessee campuses are proposing 0% tuition increases to their individual advisory boards.

The advisory boards will meet in early May to review and discuss tuition. Their recommendations will be submitted to UT President Randy Boyd and presented to the UT Board of Trustees in June for the final decision. 

If approved, both undergraduate and graduate students will experience no tuition increases for the 2020-2021 academic year at the system’s campuses located in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin. If approved, it would be a first in the university’s history that all four campuses had a 0% tuition increase. UT Health Science Center’s advisory board has already recommended no increase, which was approved by the Board of Trustees earlier in the year.

“Our students and their families are struggling right now, many financially,” said Boyd. “Our chancellors and I strongly believe that we need to do everything we can to provide them the support they need to continue their education at UT, and to make our university as affordable as possible for our incoming students.”

On March 11, UT campuses across the state announced they would be moving to online education platforms in response to COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. The outbreak has been declared by the World Health Organization as a pandemic.

The University of Tennessee System is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 387,000 alumni around the world.

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Reopening guidelines for Memphis and Shelby County

12:50 PM CT, April 30

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Watch Live: Lee joins Trump for COVID briefing

2:49 PM CT, April 30

Gov. Bill Lee appears today with President Donald Trump in a White House briefing on helping protect America’s seniors in the COVID-19 crisis.

Watch below:

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North Memphis officials hope to raise funds for 5,000 free masks

12:17 PM CT, April 30

North Memphis elected officials have launched a fundraising campaign to provide up to 5,000 free face masks for constituents in their communities who may not have access to one otherwise.

The “Masks for Memphis” fundraising campaign started Thursday, April 30. The goal is to raise $25,000; purchase masks being sewn by individuals in the elected officials’ districts and distribute those masks for free to those in need.

The organizers behind the fundraiser are Memphis City Councilwomen Michalyn Easter-Thomas and Rhonda Logan and State Representative Antonio Parkinson.

“We want to make sure when things open up that we’re prepared,” Easter-Thomas said. 

While wearing masks or face coverings is not mandatory, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has strongly recommended those going out in a public wear one.

Wearing a face mask is seen as one way to reduce contracting or transmission of coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Masks provided through the fundraiser will be washable and reusable. Each of the elected officials involved in the project and others in the North Memphis delegation are donating to the fundraising campaign, according to the release. They are also requesting funds from both private and public donors to reach its goal of $25,000.

Local crafters are being sought to sew and package at least 5,000 masks and will be compensated. The plan is to distribute those masks during a drive-up/walk-up event in mid-May.

The release also states seniors and disabled persons who may not be able to attend may have their masks delivered to their homes in a no contact delivery.

The elected officials are partnering with several nonprofits in the area including Our Grass Our Roots, the Raleigh Community Development Corp., Legacy of Legends CDC and A Better Memphis. Impact Baptist Church and Real Life Ministries are also involved on the project.

For those who want to donate to “Mask for Memphis” here are several ways listed below. For more information, check out the “Masks for Memphis” Facebook page

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/masksformemphis

CashApp: $OGORMemphis

PayPal: paypal.me/ogormemphis

Post Mail Checks: Our Grass Our Roots, P.O. Box 40104, Memphis, TN, 38174

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Mississippi adds 246 cases, 11 deaths

12:22 PM CT, April 30

Mississippi has 246 more confirmed coronavirus cases and 11 more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

Statewide, there are 6,815 confirmed cases and 261 deaths.

DeSoto County has 282 confirmed cases, resulting in four deaths.

Marshall County has 43 confirmed cases, resulting in two deaths.

Nearly 67,000 people -- 66,094 -- have been tested.

For the first time the agency released in its daily update the number of people presumed to be recovered from the disease: 3,413. The Department of Health will provide the number on a weekly basis.

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Memphis and Shelby County to reopen Monday

12:06 PM CT, April 30

Memphis, unincorporated Shelby County and all six of the county’s suburban municipalities will begin reopening from the COVID-19 shutdown next Monday, May 4.

Start of the first phase of the “Back to Business” reopening plan was announced Thursday, the same day Nashville extended its safer at home order until at least May 8 and a day after Shelby County Health Department Director Alisha Haushalter and county Mayor Lee Harris said the trend of coronavirus cases here has stabilized. Both said Wednesday the area was getting close to an opening date.


Your quick list of what can open on Monday


It also comes after a week of visible unrest among suburban mayors who were ready to get things moving and complained that jail testing last weekend tainted an otherwise positive trend. Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald said Thursday afternoon there was some hopes of opening Friday in conjunction with Gov. Bill Lee’s timetable, but such a move was not possible.

Read More

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Lee going to White House for briefing with President Trump

9:46 AM CT, April 30

Gov. Bill Lee is flying to Washington, D.C., Thursday to participate in a White House briefing with President Donald Trump on helping protect America’s seniors in the COVID-19 crisis.

The governor is scheduled to participate in a 3 p.m. press conference. His daily press briefing is to be held at 5 p.m.

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How COVID-19 cases are growing locally and statewide

9:40 AM CT, April 30

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Shelby County confirms 81 new cases as testing goes up

9:09 AM CT, April 30

There are 81 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, and that came with a big increase in testing, according to Shelby County Health Department data.

The total number of cases is 2,484 with 47 resulting in death to complications from the virus as of Thursday, April 30. There was one new death reported Thursday.

In Shelby County, there have been 28,124 tests for coronavirus with 8.8% of those tests being positive. The county reported an additional 1,643 tests Thursday, one of its highest daily totals since it began reporting testing numbers.

A total of 1,279 people have recovered from the virus, according to the health department. 

Statewide, there are 10,366 cases with 195 deaths as of Wednesday, April 29, according to the latest figures from state’s health department.

In Tennessee, the total number of tests performed is 168,589 with a 6.1% positivity rate.

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Local and state coronavirus cases, tests and recoveries

9:39 AM CT, April 30

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April 29, 2020

State to focus on nursing home testing

3:16 PM CT, April 29

The state will embark on widespread testing in all long-term facilities in Tennessee, 700 facilities with 70,000 residents, partnering with National Health Care Corporation to test all residents in its 38 facilities.

The Unified Command group is also planning to increase testing in the minority community and will start working in low-income areas in days, the governor said.

Hospitalizations increased to 1013, 13% higher than Tuesday’s total of 894. This is not reflective of 119 people suddenly being hospitalized in the last day or two.

That’s according to Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.

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How the 38118 ZIP code became a coronavirus ‘hot spot’

4:36 PM CT, April 29

Local health officials are pushing to expand testing and educational efforts regarding COVID-19 in one of the hardest hit Shelby County ZIP codes.

The rate of positive tests in 38118 is between 13.1% to 19%. That’s the highest of any ZIP code in Shelby County, according to data from the Shelby County Health Department.

Between 929 to 1,100 tests for coronavirus have been administered in the 38118 ZIP code located south of Interstate 240 to the Mississippi state line and east of Memphis International Airport.

Shantelle Leatherwood, CEO of Christ Community Health Services, said the nonprofit health care clinic discovered more than 170 coronavirus cases in the 38118 ZIP code. Leatherwood, in comments on The Daily Memphian’s Extra Podcast, said the area, which contains a trailer park, is a target for expanded testing.

“Clearly, a hot spot,” Leatherwood said. “That is the next area we have prioritized.”

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter addressed the reasons for the coronavirus problems in 38118 at a press briefing Wednesday.

“These are people who live very closely together in the same neighborhood,” Haushalter said. “We do know there’s transmission based on family relationships, social relationships and not just neighborhood relationships but individuals who may go to the same facilities. They may or may not have been practicing good social distancing.”

Haushalter also gave encouraging news about 38118 regarding coronavirus. She said the positivity rate has decreased there as they have increased educational awareness resulting in reduced transmission and more social distancing in the area.

On improving educational awareness when it comes to the virus, Haushalter said patients are told to self-isolate after getting tested at all the community testing sites. This is to reduce any potential spread of the coronavirus.

Haushalter said the Health Department has also improved its contact tracing materials, so individuals can track those they have been in contact with quicker, so they can be quarantined.

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