Coronavirus live blog, May 15: Health Department anticipates making Phase 2 announcement Monday

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 18, 2020 10:05 AM CT | Published: May 15, 2020 9:00 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
  • Wear a mask when you are out in public
  • 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

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May 15, 2020

Health Department anticipates making Phase 2 announcement Monday

12:14 PM CT, May 15

City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said Monday is day 14 of Phase 1 of the Back to Business plan and reiterated that will be the earliest for Phase 2. He said so far the data toward Phase 2 looks really good, but they will continue to evaluate. 

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter won’t make a recommendation on Phase 2 until Monday since it is the 14th and final day of Phase 1. They anticipate making announcement on Monday per Haushalter.

McGowen said Phase 2 is a whole new segment of businesses and moving to larger groups of about 50, but doesn’t draw a hard line at 49 or 50.

“It’s a calculated move,” he said.

McGowen said there will be more enforcement of social distancing with additions to the health department and city code enforcement. But he says in Phase 1, there have been very few calls of violations.

Haushalter said there are “no significant barriers” to reopening, but wants to wait the full 14 days. She said it would be “premature” to pull the trigger on Phase 2 before that.

There has been a “slow incremental increase in hospitalizations” per Haushalter in recent days. They know it’s COVID-related, but are still drilling down on the specifics. It is among the factors she will be watching over the weekend in making the decision on Phase 2.

Haushalter said part of the deliberations over the weekend is to see if the use of ICU beds that has increased is nursing home cases or something new.

Haushalter said increased use of hospital beds is COVID cases and hospitalization of those with the virus as a precaution.

McGowen said the 495 Union Ave. field hospital is 14-15% of local hospital capacity. And the hospital could conceivably ease the uptick in use of hospital beds currently.

As of midnight, the field hospital will be ready with 400 non-acute care beds. The formal opening is early next week.

Haushalter on school reopenings said the state is changing its guidance as we speak and need an increase in contact tracers for that and other aspects of further reopenings.

McGowen said we are only using 60% of testing capacity at this point. He pushed getting tested.

David Sweat, Shelby County Health Department head of epidemiology, said almost 20% of pediatric coronavirus cases are Latino. Sweat said he believes that is caused by household transmission. Of the 82 fatal cases, it’s 2.3% of confirmed cases. The majority are male. Seventy percent of the dead are African-American.

The biggest contributor of deaths in Shelby County is healthcare-associated infections, including nursing home clusters. In 33% of cases, we don’t know the related causes yet.

Other factors in the deaths -- “by far,” Sweat said the biggest single risk factor in the deaths is cardiac conditions, including high blood pressure or congestive heart failure or any different number of cardiac problems. 

”If you have any of these underlying conditions ... and if you have a combination of these risk factors together (including diabetes et al) ... it’s super important for you to adhere as closely as possible to all of these safeguards,” he said. 

 That includes masks and staying home as much as possible.

Sweat said the axiom in public health is “if you go looking for something you are likely to find it.” He commented on the relationship between the increase in testing and spread of testing and cases found in those specific areas.

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COVID-19 testing scheduled for Memphis housing units

3:56 PM CT, May 15

Memphis State Rep. Barbara Cooper announced that free, voluntary testing for COVID-19 will begin next week in many of the city’s housing units.

Health care workers and National Guardsmen wearing medical protective gear, in conjunction with Memphis Housing Authority and Gov. Bill Lee’s COVID-19 Unified Command Group, is scheduled to test for the coronavirus Monday and Tuesday in the following areas:

9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, May 18:

  • Legends Park North
  • Montgomery Plaza Apartments
  • E. Patterson Pointe Apartments

9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (except as noted) Tuesday, May 19:

  • Kefauver Terrace Apartments (9 to 11 a.m.)
  • Jefferson Square Apartments

At this time, final arrangements are still pending, and there could be further updates. 

Cooper said she’s heard from constituents in those areas, many of them seniors, who are concerned about the virus.

“Often senior citizens and others in high rise apartments and public housing may want to get tested, but don’t have the ability to get back and forth to the mobile testing centers; this way we can respond to their concerns and bring the testing directly to them to serve their needs,” she said.

Cooper added the effort is supported by the Governor’s office, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators and the House Democratic Caucus.

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State to lift retail, restaurant restrictions in most counties May 22

3:29 PM CT, May 15

With the spread of COVID-19 appearing to weaken, the state’s Economic Recovery Group announced Friday, May 15, 2020, it will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and retail.

Instead, those businesses will be asked to focus on social distancing best practices effective May 22 as the state issued guidelines to facilitate the safe reopening of larger, non-contact attractions on or after May 22. 

Restaurants and retailers opened last week at 50% capacity and were to be allowed to increase capacity once the state met COVID-19 minimum requirements.

New guidelines with the Tennessee Pledge are to be released early next week. Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – will be allowed to continue following their own reopening plans created in consultation with state and local health departments, according to a release.

“Tennesseans have worked incredibly hard to do their part and help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our state can begin to reopen. Thanks to their continued efforts, we’re able to allow restaurants and retail businesses to operate at greater capacity and large attractions to open in a safe and thoughtful way,” Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement. “Our state continues to see downward trends in case growth and meets the White House criteria for a phased reopening. This progress has been hard-won, and we can build upon it by reopening while also maintaining common-sense safety measures like mask-wearing and good hygiene. By taking the Tennessee Pledge, our businesses can reopen in a way that protects the health of their customers and employees, and protects the livelihoods of hard-working Tennesseans.” 

The new guidance for large attractions applies to those businesses that can effectively practice social distancing with strong measures to protect both employees and customers, including racetracks, amusement parks, waterparks, theaters and dinner theaters, auditoriums, large museums and more.

Restrictions on social gatherings of more than 10 people remain in place for the time being. Updates to restaurant guidance will include lifting capacity restrictions and allowing for increased service as long as social distancing guidelines are adhered to, including six feet between tables. 

The updated guidelines come as Tennessee continues to meet the White House criteria for phased reopening in states, according to the statement.

The state is reporting a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period for new cases as a percent of new tests, which dipped from about 13.8% on May 1 to 3.8% on May 14.

Another downward trajectory is being reported by the state in the total cases as a percent of total tests, from 6.4% on May 1 to 5.5% on May 14.

Tennessee’s hospital capacity also remains “sufficient” to handle patients as the state works toward a goal of testing 2% of the population each month.

The Department of Health is reporting 16,970 cases out of 309,756 tested with 290 deaths, 1,454 hospitalized and 9,280 recovered. Shelby County has reported 3,595 cases and Davidson County is at 3,795 cases, with both seeing daily increases.

State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, a Nashville Democrat, said he has seen some “positive developments” in the state’s response, primarily the willingness of people to take on social distancing, he said he has been disappointed in the “lack of coordinator, communication and clarity” coming from the Governor’s Office.

“I think the governor thinks he’s being business friendly by only releasing suggestions about how companies should reopen. But, frankly, a lot of businesses just want to know what the best thing to do is and to receive some clear instruction on the things they really need to be doing at this moment,” Yarbro said.

The Southern Christian Coalition accused the governor punishing workers while protecting business owners.

Joe Sheeran, state organization for the coalition, said in a Friday statement the governor has said there will be no consequences for business owners who ignore the Tennessee Pledge yet workers who refuse to show up at an unsafe workplace would lose unemployment and could face criminal charges for trying to collect benefits.

The Tennessee Department of Labor’s website contains a link for business owners to report employees who decline to go back to work during the pandemic, according to Sheeran.

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COVID-19 in Tennessee

3:42 PM CT, May 15

 

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

10:09 AM CT, May 15

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Tennessee adds 271 cases, 3 deaths

2:13 PM CT, May 15

Tennessee has 271 more confirmed coronavirus cases and three more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Department of Health.

The total is now 16,970 confirmed cases and 290 deaths. And 9,280 people are considered officially recovered from the disease; 1,454 were ever hospitalized.

Statewide, 309,756 tests have been administered; that’s 7,439 more than yesterday’s update. 

The Department of Health reports 3,595 cases in Shelby County, up from the 3,569 cases the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier today. The local health department reports 82 deaths.

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reports 4,008 cases and 43 deaths in Davidson County.

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Courts reset cases again

1:07 PM CT, May 15

For the fourth time, Shelby County General Sessions Criminal Courts and Shelby County Criminal Courts have reset cases again because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The reset court cases apply to defendants who are currently not in custody.

The state Supreme court issued another order last month stating that most-in person court proceedings were suspended because of COVID-19. The suspension applies to appellate, trial general sessions, juvenile and city courts. The suspension will last until May 31.

If you have a case in Criminal Court divisions 1-10 or in General Sessions Division 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 or Drug Court, the cases have been reset to the corresponding day of the week of your original court date. The reset dates are from June 22 through July 2.

The clerk’s office has been closing at 1 p.m. daily since March 23.

For questions, call the General Sessions Criminal Court clerk’s office at (901) 222-3500. For cases in Criminal Court call the clerk’s office at (901) 222-3200 or go to shelbycountytn.gov for more information on reset court dates.

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An assist from Pinnacle

1:04 PM CT, May 15

More than 500 essential front-line workers and underserved families will receive a free lunch at local restaurants, thanks to a $5,000 donation from Pinnacle Financial Partners.

The program begins Monday, May 18, when workers from the YMCA will be provided lunch at Saucy Chicken. The following Monday, workers from Shelby County Schools will receive lunch at the Lenny’s Forest Hill/Poplar location. The next two weeks, Wing Guru will be the lunch spot for Mid-South Food Bank workers and Jet’s Pizza for families from the Memphis Housing Authority.

The program came together in coordination with the Memphis Grizzlies, for whom Pinnacle is a corporate sponsor. Slots for the lunches already have been reserved.

“Every little bit of impact helps,” said Abusheri Ohwofasa, vice president of community engagement for the Grizzlies and executive director of the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation. “One of our priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic is support.”

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Mississippi adds 318 cases, 13 deaths

12:46 PM CT, May 15

Mississippi has 318 more confirmed coronavirus cases and 13 more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the state’s Department of Health.

Those 13 deaths include two from May 4–5 that were identified through death certificate reports, the agency said.

That brings the total to 10,801 confirmed cases and 493 deaths.

Statewide, 106,823 tests have been administered.

DeSoto County has 369 confirmed cases; nine of those cases are linked to long-term care facilities. There have been five deaths; one of those is linked to a long-term care facility.

Marshall County has 65 cases; two of those are linked to long-term care facilities. The county has two deaths, neither linked to long-term care facilities. 

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Local and state coronavirus cases, tests and recoveries

10:10 AM CT, May 15

 

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Watch today’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing

12:00 PM CT, May 15

The COVID-19 Joint Task Force briefing is scheduled for noon and set to feature City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen and Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter.

Watch below:

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Shelby County cases decline as testing tops 1,600

10:08 AM CT, May 15

Shelby County confirmed 46 new cases of coronavirus Friday with testing numbers rising back to 1,686, according to the county health department.

The positivity rate of those tests reported Friday was 2.7%, nearly five percentage below the overall rate.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Shelby County is now 3,569. 

A total of 2,161 people are classified as recovered from the coronavirus in Shelby County.

Shelby County reported one new death from the virus Friday. The count is now at 82. 

A total of 48,130 coronavirus tests were reported with a 7.4% positivity rate.

Statewide, there are 16,699 cases with 287 deaths and 8,881 recoveries, as of Monday, according to Tennessee Department of Health.

In Tennessee, the total number of tests taken is 302,317 with a 5.5% positive rate.

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FedEx pilot jailed in Singapore for breaking quarantine

8:52 AM CT, May 15

A FedEx cargo pilot has been sentenced to four weeks in jail for breaking quarantine in Singapore, according to the Associated Press.

Brian Dugan Yeargan’s attorney told the AP that Yeargan pleaded guilty to leaving his hotel room to buy masks and a thermometer and was sentenced Wednesday. Yeargan is from Alaska.

After arriving in Singapore on April 3, Yeargan was required to be in quarantine for 14 days because of recent travel to Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and the U.S.; health officials discovered him missing from his room two days later, the AP reports.

In its ruling, the court said that the pilot should have asked someone else to get him supplies, according to the AP. 

FedEx confirmed that an employee breached the stay-home order.

“FedEx adheres to all regulations and guidelines from government authorities related to the containment of COVID-19, and ensures that it takes the necessary steps to maintain the high standards of behavior expected of our employees to protect the health and safety of our team members and the communities in which we serve,” the company said in a statement.

 
 

 

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May 14, 2020

MLGW board approves $200,000 for community COVID-19 fund

3:33 PM CT, May 14

During a specially-called meeting, Memphis, Light Gas and Water’s Board of Commissioners approved $200,000 going into a COVID-19 community care fund created by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

MLGW’s funds will be matched by TVA for a total donation of $400,000 to local nonprofits.

Each of the organizations receiving grants serve the community needs arising from the pandemic. The grants are as follows:

  • United Way of the Mid-South: $25,000
  • Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Fund: $25,000
  • Plus-1 (a MIFA/MLGW partnership): $75,000
  • Mid-South Food Bank: $75,000

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COVID-19 testing scheduled next week at Memphis housing units

3:44 PM CT, May 14

State Rep. Barbara Cooper announced Thursday, May 14, 2020, that free, voluntary testing for COVID-19 will begin next week in many of the city’s housing units in Memphis. 

Healthcare workers and National Guardsmen wearing medical protective gear, in conjunction with MHA and Gov. Bill Lee’s COVID-19 Unified Command Group, will test for the coronavirus Monday and Tuesday in the following areas:

  • Kefauver Terrace Apartments
  • Jefferson Square Apartments
  • Paul Borda Tower Apartments
  • Montgomery Plaza Apartments
  • Patterson Pointe Apartments

Rep. Cooper says she’s heard from constituents in those areas, many of them seniors, who are concerned about the virus.

“Often senior citizens and others in high rise apartments and public housing may want to get tested, but don’t have the ability to get back and forth to the mobile testing centers; this way we can respond to their concerns and bring the testing directly to them to serve their needs,” Cooper said.

Cooper added the effort is supported by the Governor’s Office, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators and the House Democratic Caucus.

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