Coronavirus live blog, May 7: Shelby County Health Department gives mask wearing how-tos

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 08, 2020 8:34 AM CT | Published: May 07, 2020 10:22 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 6 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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May 07, 2020

Lee: lives and livelihoods not an ‘either/or’ situation

3:49 PM CT, May 7

At Gov. Bill Lee’s COVID-19 briefing this afternoon in Nashville he began by noting it is National day of Prayer. He said it is poignant given the pandemic.

Also this is Correctional Officer Week and National Nurses Week and National Teachers Week.

He said teachers are “working hard or harder than ever before.”

Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey toured earlier Thursday the alternative medical facility being built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 495 Union Ave., the former site of The Commercial Appeal.

The 400-bed facility is to open in mid-May. Piercey said she was impressed by the rapid construction of the facility that is designed to be available should local hospitals become overwhelmed by a later surge of the virus. She also praised the collaboration by public health officials and leaders of the private health care industry in the city.

Statewide there are 14,096 confirmed coronavirus cases, up 1% from yesterday; 237 Tennesseans have died from the virus.

We have reached 250,000 tested statewide. Lee calls it a milestone and said the number will go up in May with federal support.

Piercey said 236,000 tests have been administered statewide. 

”If you are going back to work, get a test,” he said. “If you have a symptom, get a test.”

Tennessee will have tested every prisoner in every state prison this week.

About the 90% asymptomatic rate in state prisons: Piercey said that rate was in Trousdale that has a log of inmates reporting or showing symptoms. She said that it is an “extensive” log. They also go by appearances when the health department gets involved.

Piercey said on asymptomatic prisoners nationally, she said she doesn’t believe that applies to the general prison population and spread of the virus. They are still trying to test the number. And she said more testing will tell the tale on asymptomatic prisoners.

Lee said the state effort is looking at high density residential areas -- “targeted high value testing.”

The goal is to test 10,000-plus a day in the next month.

Piercey said a lot of results coming in over the next few days includes nursing home testing the state is assisting in; also testing aimed at targeted populations.

On nursing home reform: Piercey said the industry believes it is one of most regulated industries in the world. She said the administration has no intent to add more.

Piercey said lessons from New York show crowded housing and close quarters are associated with the spread of the virus. Even in a household, she said less room to spread out means people are more likely to have the virus.

Lee said the state will work to source and identify sources of materials for masks.

On mental health concerns: Lee said challenges have surfaced in newer and greater ways. He said the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has a 24/7 hotline: (855) 274-7471 and texting.

The state military’s focus is on testing -- to assist in that. COVID-19 has affected training for the National Guard. Pilot training catch up is next Tuesday. They will consolidate aircraft to make as many flights to all areas of state as can to salute health care workers to recognize them.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and unemployment money from the federal government is up to date. The state is working to get benefits to Tennesseans. The focus is on getting people back to work.

On reopening across the state: Great Smoky Mountain National Park will reopen this weekend.

On lack of masks in Gatlinburg as it reopened: Lee said they need to spread the word on “Tennessee Pledge” precautions and standards. He said some of the visitors from out of state. Tourism Commissioner Ezell will be on ground in Gatlinburg to reemphasize guidelines and importance of social distancing.

On enforcement Lee said he doesn’t start with the assumption that people won’t comply: “there is a reason for self enforcement. If there is a bad actor ... we will engage with them. ... But the vast majority of businesses in the state have been” complying.

Lee said lives and livelihoods are not an “either/or” situation. He said it has not been a struggle but a balance. And it was something that hadn’t been dealt with before.

How do you know if spread is down as businesses open?

Lee said they are tracking cases in different ways and changes to targeted testing. Piercey said they are looking at a list of testing metrics. Flattening the curve was never about eliminating or completely removing the spread of this virus. She said that will be a fact until we have a vaccine. Flattening the curve is about the capacity of hospitals to keep up with demand.

Piercey said they are looking more at specific areas -- populations, nursing homes, minority populations and those at higher risk for the virus. On a geographic scale, they took a wide approach in the initial effort -- not every part of the state is the same. So, they are looking again at a more surgical approach instead of a shotgun approach.

Lee: “We are in the middle of this.”

He said the state will do all humanly possible to protect lives and protect livelihoods.

Lee said next school year will be up to the Legislature. He hopes the new school year begins in August as planned. He said he will follow virus trends specifically for its impact on the new school year.

On when to go back to school and whether it’s a full return to the classroom: Lee said local school districts know best what is happening on the ground. But the decision about how school year is determined and who goes back when -- will be much like it has been in the past.

On school vouchers and Lee’s decision not to process applications. Lee said the deadline to apply is today, so they are still taking but not processing them.


Watch Gov. Bill Lee’s press briefing

2:56 PM CT, May 7

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

Watch below:



Airbnbs forbids parties at Memphis properties

2:00 PM CT, May 7

Typically home-sharing platform Airbnb lets its hosts set their own “House Rules'' regarding events and parties, but in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the company has forbidden hosts to allow parties and events in Memphis until further notice. 

“While Governor (Bill) Lee has announced some gradual restrictions on his emergency order, his ban on non-religious social gatherings remains in effect,” reads the statement from the company. 

The company’s statement goes on to read, “We want to be very clear -- not only will we ban guests who attempt to throw an unauthorized party in a Memphis Airbnb listing, we will be cooperating with Memphis Police in any investigations relating to parties and violations of public health mandates, consistent with our Terms of Service.”

Airbnb said it has also temporarily disabled the “event-friendly” search filter and continues work to prevent and address unauthorized parties held by guests.

As both government and health authorizes relax their rules, Airbnb said it will evaluate its policy adjustments.


Tennessee adds 158 cases

2:28 PM CT, May 7

Tennessee has 158 more confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

The official death toll actually decreased by two from yesterday’s update, from 239 to 237. 

That total is 14,096 confirmed cases in Tennessee. Close to 6,800 people -- 6,783 -- are considered to be recovered from the disease and 1,266 have ever been hospitalized.

The number of recoveries since yesterday’s update, 219, is greater than the number of added cases (158).

Statewide 236,328 tests have been administered; 9,227 since yesterday’s update.

The Department of Health reports 3,066 confirmed cases in Shelby County, up from the 3,040 cases the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier in the day. 

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reports 3,432 confirmed cases and 35 deaths in Davidson County. 


Health Department gives mask-wearing guidance

12:38 PM CT, May 7

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said Governor Bill Lee has sent 40,000 masks to Shelby County for the Health Department to distribute, which are available at all health department clinics and commodities clinics. They are also handing out masks in outreach efforts.

Jennifer Randle, laboratory supervisor for the Health Department, did a face mask/face covering demonstration. 

Her how-to:

  • Wash hands before using a mask. 
  • Make sure the mask is snug and covers your mouth, nose and chin. 
  • Use ear loops to remove the mask. 
  • If using a cloth mask, wash the mask daily, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Do not wear your mask on the tip of your nose or with your nose exposed.
  • Do not leave your chin exposed. 
  • Do not leave gaps on the side of the mask. 
  • Don’t touch the mask while it’s on your face. 
  • Don’t pull the mask under your chin. 
  • Don’t wear it on top of your forehead. 
  • Don’t reuse single use masks. 
  • Don’t have a false security about a mask or covering, the best way to protect is still to stay at home and wash hands.

Haushalter said to hang masks up when not in use or put them in a paper bag. You can use a scarf, but it must be natural fiber of several layers. Masks from the state are “a little bit different” with no ear loops. Take it off by the springs.

On Dr. Jeff Warren’s Memphis City Council to require masks in public in Memphis, Haushalter said the Shelby County Commission is also considering something similar. She said the final decision is up to elected officials in consultation with attorneys. The bigger question is how will people respond. Nationally, it’s been mixed, she said.

Masked Memphis

Form or function: the new fashion accessory, coronavirus masks, turns us all into benign bandits

Haushalter said there is “significant compliance” in Shelby County.

About the mask from the state and the porous material it uses: Haushalter said it is fairly thick and thick enough to serve as a mask. The ones she has seen have not been a problem. They are thick which makes them fit the face better. So there are no complaints from her about it. She said they meet CDC expectations.

Casia Alexander, with the Health Department, on restaurants: all should be at 50% capacity with six feet between tables. No buffets or drink refills by you, staff must do. All servers, etcetera, should have on masks. For to-go, curbside should also be done outside. She suggested restaurants tell people to stay in cars.

Haushalter reacted to a blog post from Southaven mayor earlier saying health officials' role is advisory and “it’s time for them to return to their proper roles” and let elected officials make policy. 

She doesn’t mention him specifically in her response, but said the role of the Health Department is more than advisory since it issues directives.

Fifty-seven percent of confirmed cases in Shelby County have recovered to date.

On rises in testing and confirmed cases: Haushalter said they are looking at trends over time -- longer than daily totals. They also look at when testing specimens are reported. Sometimes it may be that a lab turned in a lot of reports all at once.

Haushalter said they are still gathering info on how many of the confirmed cases are asymptomatic, but they don’t have numbers at this point. They have asked that testing sites start to provide that information, they may have that in a week or so.

Nothing new on the surge timeline. 

”We will impact that surge by adhering to social distancing locally,” Haushalter said. 

The ideal is less of a surge that won’t exceed hospital capacity.

On what Mother’s Day will be like this weekend for restaurants and case count in general, Haushalter said they don’t expect a surge as a result of reopenings. She pushed face masks and other precautions, and protecting those most vulnerable. She said if a senior is involved, get the food to-go.

Haushalter said there are no changes in the local plan. But the reopening subcommittee continues to work. They revisit the plan weekly.

On nursing home outbreaks: they have contacted state to get more technical assistance.

Alexander said in warehouses, they are relying on employees to report violations. The Health Department has gone to some sites and talked with some employers.


Watch today’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing

12:00 PM CT, May 7

Today’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing is set to feature Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter and Health Department Laboratory Supervisor Jennifer Randle.

Watch below:


Mississippi adds 262 cases, 22 deaths

11:16 AM CT, May 7

Mississippi has 262 more confirmed coronavirus cases and 22 new deaths, reports the state’s Department of Health.

Those reported deaths include nine from prior weeks that were identified through death certificate investigation, according to the agency.

The total number of confirmed cases is 8,686 and 396 deaths.

DeSoto County has 320 confirmed cases, resulting in five deaths.

Marshall County has 50 confirmed cases, resulting in two deaths.

More than 80,000 -- 80,308 -- have been tested statewide; 4,421 are presumed recovered from the disease.


Shelby County cases increase as testing rises again

10:08 AM CT, May 7

The Shelby County Health Department reported 92 new cases Thursday as testing numbers rose to 1,650.

The positivity rate of Thursday’s reported tests was 5.6%, a lower rate than the overall total and a potentially positive sign. 

There have been 1,739 recoveries from coronavirus in Shelby County.

Shelby County reported six new deaths from the virus since Wednesday morning. The total is now 64.

In Shelby County, there have been 36,878 total tests taken with an 8.2% positivity rate.

Statewide, there are 13,938 cases with 239 deaths as of Wednesday, May 6, according to Tennessee Department of Health.

In Tennessee, the total number of tests taken is 227,101 with a 6.1% positivity rate.


Local and state coronavirus cases, tests and recoveries

10:03 AM CT, May 7



How COVID-19 cases are growing locally and statewide

10:03 AM CT, May 7



May 06, 2020

Tennessee adds 314 cases, 13 deaths

2:17 PM CT, May 6

Tennessee has 314 more confirmed coronavirus cases and 13 additional deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

That brings the Tennessee total to 13,938 confirmed cases and 239 deaths.

Statewide, 227,101 tests have been administered, an increase of 8,305 since yesterday’s update.

And 1,221 have ever been hospitalized for the disease; 6,564 are considered officially recovered. 

The Department of Health reports 3,010 confirmed cases in Shelby County, up from the 2,948 the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier in the day.

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reports 3,346 confirmed cases in Davidson County and 33 deaths.


Mississippi adds 217 cases, 32 deaths

2:43 PM CT, May 6

Mississippi has 217 more confirmed coronavirus cases and 32 additional deaths from the disease, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

The state’s total is now 8,424 confirmed cases and 374 deaths.

DeSoto County has 310 confirmed cases and four deaths.

Marshall County has 49 confirmed cases and two deaths.

And 4,421 are “presumed recovered” from the disease.

More than 80,000 people -- 80,308 -- have been tested statewide.



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