Coronavirus daily blog, March 20: Graceland closing through at least April 3

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 23, 2020 9:58 AM CT | Published: March 20, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Confirmed cases
Shelby County
Metro area

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 new coronavirus landing page.

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March 20, 2020

OUTMemphis providing food and hygiene kits

5:59 PM CT, March 20

OUTMemphis is providing pre-assembled food and hygiene kits for LGBTQ+ people in need from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at 892 S Cooper St. People needing kits should call in advance: (901) 278-6422.

Food kits will include non-perishable snacks and a sandwich. Hygiene kits will include travel-sized toiletries, soap, hand sanitizer, tissues, wet wipes, socks and condoms. 

Drop-off or mail-in donations of supplies will be accepted at OUTMemphis’ donation center, located at 832 Virginia Run Cove. Donations will be sanitized and sorted. Cash donations can also be made. 

A list of items in which to donate can be found here.


Graceland closing Saturday through April 3

4:35 PM CT, March 20

Graceland said Friday it will close temporarily because of the coronavirus.

The Elvis Presley home and related exhibits, a major tourism generator in Memphis, posted the news online.

“In line with Federal and CDC guidance and with the absolute best interest of our Guests and Staff in mind, Graceland will be temporarily closed beginning March 21 through April 3 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will vigilantly monitor the situation and remain in regular contact with the appropriate officials and health experts. Please continue to check this page and our social media for updates,” it said.

“Graceland tour tickets for March 21 to April 3, 2020, will be automatically extended to use any date within one year of the original tour date ... The full value of your original tour ticket will be applied towards your rescheduled tour ticket of equal or greater value.”


City of Lakeland declares state of emergency

4:47 PM CT, March 20

Lakeland Mayor Mike Cunningham declared a state of emergency for the suburb Friday afternoon.

Under the mayor’s executive order, restaurants must close their dining rooms. However, they may still provide drive-thru, carryout and pickup options.

Fitness centers and theaters must also close.

The order is effective at midnight for seven days, but could be extended for another seven days.


Bartlett issues state of emergency

4:11 PM CT, March 20

Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald issued a state of emergency for the city Friday afternoon.

By executive order, restaurants must stop serving food on site but may provide pickup and takeout options.

Grocery stores and health care facilities will remain open, but fitness centers will close.

Bartlett Police will provide enforcement. 


Arlington declares state of emergency

3:59 PM CT, March 20

Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman declared a state of emergency Friday. 

Under Wissman’s executive order restaurants must close dining rooms but can offer food through delivery and carryout options.

Gyms will close, but grocery stores and other stores, health care facilities and businesses may remain open.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s office will enforce the mayor’s order.


Restaurants in unincorporated Shelby County must stop on-premise consumption

3:39 PM CT, March 20

Mayor Lee Harris asked all restaurants in unincorporated Shelby County to close dining rooms and move to off-premise consumption.

Dining rooms will be closed but guests may use pick-up, delivery or carryout options.

The transition for these restaurants begins Sunday at 6 a.m.

Harris also ordered gyms to close before Sunday morning.


30 cases as of Friday afternoon in Shelby County

2:04 PM CT, March 20

Twenty new cases of coronavirus were confirmed Friday by the Shelby County Health Department at a 2 p.m. briefing, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 30.

“We’re beginning to see transmission in different areas,” Alisa Haushalter, head of the health department said.

What health officials expect to begin seeing next is social setting transmissions, mentioning grocery stores as an example.

For full story, click here.


Collierville declares state of emergency

3:25 PM CT, March 20

Collierville declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon.

The declaration by Mayor Stan Joyner asks restaurants, food courts and coffeehouses to stop on-site consumption but allows them to continue delivery and take-out methods.

Grocery stores and health care facilities may remain open, and Collierville Police will enforce the measure.


Shelby County Schools suspends meal distribution

2:21 PM CT, March 20

Shelby County Schools was expected to feed students next week during the extended closure.

However, a nutrition services department employee tested positive for coronavirus.

SCS has suspended its meal plan indefinitely at this time.

“It’s important the community wrap their arms around our children,” SCS Superintendent Joris Ray said.

”I have texted with a school board member and I know our team is on the phone right now with Shelby County Schools to figure out how else we can distribute food,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said her nutrition officials have been in contact with SCS leaders.

“And we are committed to working closely with the district to identify immediate solutions,” she said in an email statement. “The priority for all Tennessee public schools and districts is to ensure our children are fed - we will come together as a state to support one of our own and the children counting on us.”


Horseshoe Tunica donates food to multiple groups

3:29 PM CT, March 20

Horseshoe Tunica donated multiple truckloads of food to the Mid-South Food Bank, Memphis Union Mission and Sacred Heart Mission Friday, March 20.

The donation of food came from Horseshoe Tunica’s restaurants, which are temporarily closed by the Mississippi Gaming Commission following in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are happy to work with such great partners and wanted to donate these food items to the community as soon as possible,” said R. Scott Barber, regional president, Caesars Mid-South.


Residents light up homes to lift spirits

3:29 PM CT, March 20

As homebound Memphians hunker down amid the city-wide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, some residents are trotting out Christmas lights that were put away not too long ago in an effort to lift their neighbors’ spirits. 

“It just feels like a dark time, and Christmas lights seemed to be a good way to bring some light to our neighborhood,” said Ashley Baker as she put up decorations at her Midtown home on Stonewall Street. 

Baker also admitted that it was a good way to get the kids out of the house by participating in a family activity as many Memphians start to feel a little cabin fever while forced to stay home instead of getting out for some spring break fun.


Chamber begins COVID impact surveys

3:02 PM CT, March 20

In an effort to quantify the impact on local businesses, the Greater Memphis Chamber has launched a COVID-19 Greater Memphis Business Impact Survey. The first survey was distributed to Chamber member businesses on March 19.

Based on responses from 140 local business owners, the Chamber estimates the following impacts on Memphis area businesses due to the COVID-19 crisis:

  • 21% of those surveyed had laid off workers
  • Of those layoffs, 77% involved a company laying off 10 or fewer workers
  • 20% of respondents said their office or facility is currently closed
  • 48% of respondents said their employees were currently working remotely.

The Chamber is rolling an updated survey out to the larger business community Friday and will continue to execute the survey on a rolling basis. Results will be updated, aggregated and shared daily. This data will serve as a snapshot of how the crisis is impacting the greater Memphis business community.

The survey can be accessed through the COVID-19 Business Resources Page from the Chamber’s website at

“Our priority is to have minimal disruption to the Memphis and Shelby County economy,” said Beverly Robertson, president and CEO of the Chamber. “The best way we can do that is to communicate and connect to all of our business members. The information that is shared with us provides us with a clear road map to advocate directly on the Memphis business community’s behalf at a local, state and federal level. 

“Partnerships with key organizations throughout the city and state are also critical, especially as we are called forward to share our vision for what our business community looks like once we get through the COVID-19 crisis.”


Watch the Health Department press conference LIVE

1:57 PM CT, March 20

The Shelby County Health Department’s daily press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, March 20.

Watch below:



Bank of America offering deferred payments to qualifying clients hurt by COVID-19

1:45 PM CT, March 20

Bank of America announced Friday additional support for its 66 million consumer and small business clients due to the coronavirus. The company is offering assistance to clients through its Client Assistance Program and continuing to provide access to important financial services.

On a case-by-case basis, the assistance Bank of America will provide for clients impacted by the coronavirus includes:

  • Consumer and small business deposit accounts: clients can request refunds including overdraft fees, non-sufficient funds fees, and monthly maintenance fees.
  • Consumer and small business credit cards: clients can request to defer payments, and refunds on late fees.
  • Small business loans: clients can request to defer payments, refunds on late fees.
  • Auto loans: clients can request to defer payments, with payments added to the end of the loan.
  • Mortgages and home equity: clients can request to defer payments, with payments added to the end of the loan.
  • In all of these instances, there will be no negative credit bureau reporting for up-to-date clients.
  • The bank also has paused foreclosure sales, evictions and repossessions.

Clients facing financial hardships related to the coronavirus are encouraged to visit the company’s Client Resources website and contact the client services team for assistance.


Germantown declares state of emergency

12:51 PM CT, March 20

Mayor Mike Palazzolo signed a state of emergency declaration for the city of Germantown at 11:01 a.m.

Aldermen Scott Sanders and Dean Massey said they were unaware when the declaration was made

Other aldermen could not be reached by phone. By text message, Vice-mayor Rocky Janda said he was unaware as well.

An executive order was signed at 1:23 p.m. and closes restaurants and bars but still allows curbside and delivery service.

Fitness centers, gyms and theaters must close.

Grocery stores and healthcare facilities may remain open.

Germantown Police will enforce these policies.


Presbyterian churches plan joint radio, live streaming service

12:07 PM CT, March 20

A number of churches in the Presbytery of the Mid-South are working together to host Sunday worship services via the radio and live streaming.

Beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday and for the next several Sundays, the joint service will be broadcast and live streamed from Idlewild Presbyterian Church, and co-hosted by leaders of Balmoral, Buntyn, Evergreen, First (Memphis), First (Somerville), Parkway Gardens United, Shady Grove and Idlewild Presbyterian churches.

The sanctuary will be closed to the public, but the service will be available to all at, and on WIVG-FM 96.1.

“Borrowing from Valerie Kaur, a faith leader and civil rights activist,” said Rev. Anne H.K. Apple of Idlewild, “the church is called to be and to respond as if the pandemic darkness is not the darkness, nor the wilderness, of the tomb, but instead, the darkness of the womb. We are called to join together as the people of God and simply be the church.”

The Presbytery of the Mid-South includes 41 churches in West Tennessee and Missouri.


Governor working on executive order for electronic local government meetings

11:42 AM CT, March 20

Gov. Bill Lee confirmed today he is preparing an executive order to enable local governments to hold electronic meetings with restrictions on attendance during the COVID-19 emergency.

Lee said he is working with Attorney General Herbert Slatery and Comptroller Justin Wilson to construct the order after the Senate and House could not reach agreement Thursday night on their versions of the bill.

The legislation was designed to let local governments hold meetings electronically while abiding by the state open meeting laws but keeping out the public and media.

The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government backed a Senate version of the legislation that would set a February 2021 date for ending it and for requiring governments without the means to hold meetings electronically to make a good-faith effort.


Loflin Yard to host outdoor market

11:33 AM CT, March 20

The restaurant group that owns Railgarten, Rec Room, Bounty on Broad and Highland Axe & Rec, plans to sell food and supplies to customers in a two-acre outdoor market beginning Saturday, March 21. 

The market will be held noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays at Loflin Yard, located at 7 W. Carolina Ave. Available for purchase will be fresh food, prepared food, cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Ownership says that the market will operate with access strictly controlled under local and federal guidelines.

Other vendors interested in participating can email

Loflin Yard take out and delivery is available from noon to 9 p.m. daily.


March, April vehicle registration renewal deadline extended

11:07 AM CT, March 20

By executive order, Gov. Bill Lee has extended the deadline for vehicle registration renewals that expire in March or April. Those renewals now must be obtained by June 15.

The Department of Revenue said it hoped the extension would allow registrants to focus on their health and safety.


UTHSC has swabs; drive-up site closer to opening

9:58 AM CT, March 20

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center has found a source of swabs, which means the mass testing center on Tiger Lane is closer to opening.

The university is now able to make its own kits, said Dr. Jon McCullers, associate dean of the college of medicine and an infectious disease expert.

“We should be in good shape later today. Not sure when we will open the drive-through – still logistical details to work through,” he said in an email.

Thursday, McCullers said the center at the Fairgrounds could open this weekend. If it does, patients will need an appointment and a doctor’s referral to get tested.

Baptist Memorial Health Care is also testing at all of its clinics and hospitals. People are asked to call in advance if you go.

Locally, hospitals are taking steps to save protective gear health care workers wear when treating infectious disease patients, including N95 masks.

One of the biggest suppliers of swabs is Copan Diagnostics, which manufactures in northern Italy, a region where hospitals are overwhelmed by the infection that is ravaging the region.


Tax Day pushed back to July 15

9:51 AM CT, March 20

Tax Day has been moved from April 15 to July 15, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Friday, March 20. 

Mnuchin said that all taxpayers and businesses will have the extra time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.




MPD employee among confirmed cases in Shelby County

8:09 AM CT, March 20

A Memphis police department employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to Mayor Jim Strickland at a news conference Friday morning.

The employee is one of 10 in Shelby County confirmed by health department officials to have coronavirus.

It is not known if the employee is a police officer or is a civilian working for the department, and Lt. Karen Rudolph, a spokesman for the department said in an emailed statement that she couldn’t legally disclose any information.

“Legally we cannot discuss the health of our employees; it is protected information. For any questions regarding testing or number of cases, please contact the Shelby County Health Department,” Rudolph said. “The City of Memphis has protocols in place for employees to take precautionary measures to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

She sent a copy to a link for the city’s newly drafted temporary leave and travel policy for COVID-19.

According to the policy: “Any employee or contractor traveling to or through a high-risk location since March 5, 2020 will be required to remain out of the workplace for 14 days from the day the individual returned to Memphis from travel regardless of displayed symptoms. High-risk locations are those locations with a high number of COVID-19 cases, which includes: all international locations, a cruise to any location, the States of Washington, Florida, California, the region of New York City, City of New Orleans, and any other area which is identified by the CDC as a high-risk location. Procedure Travel to any high-risk location requires notification before or after travel to your Division Director.”


DeSoto County up to four cases

9:23 AM CT, March 20

There are four coronavirus cases in DeSoto County, as of Friday, March 20, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health. 

Those four are among 80 cases statewide. 

The agency includes both confirmed and presumptive cases in its data.




Strickland: ‘We have to be apart to be together’

8:44 AM CT, March 20

Just before going into a daily meeting at Memphis Emergency Management headquarters Friday morning, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the new measures he announced Thursday afternoon closing sit-down business at restaurants and closing outright gyms and workout spaces are to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the city, and are necessary to keep the city’s health care structure, namely its hospitals, from being overwhelmed.

“These are certainly unprecedented and serious times and we have to take serious and decisive action,” he said. “We have a choice. We either take the road that Italy has chosen, which has overwhelmed their medical system. Or the road that South Korea has chosen which has tamped down the virus. We have to as a community slow down the virus.”

Strickland also said one of the 10 confirmed cases of the virus is a Memphis Police Department employee. Citing federal health confidentiality policies, Strickland wouldn’t be more specific.


March 19, 2020

Bartlett mayor in quarantine

7:32 PM CT, March 19

<strong>Keith McDonald</strong>

Keith McDonald

Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald and his wife are in self-quarantine until next Wednesday, he said on Facebook.

He attended a conference in Washington D.C. and two people at the conference tested positive.

He said he and his wife do not have symptoms at this time, but out of caution they do not want to be around others. He was also unsure if the two would be tested, when he posted on Facebook Thursday afternoon.

He is working from home and asked for prayers for him and his wife during this time.


Tipton County confirms first COVID-19 case

10:41 PM CT, March 19

The office of the Tipton County Executive, Jeff Huffman, announced Thursday a case of coronavirus. The executive’s office confirmed the case with Dr. Shavetta Cooper with Tenessee Department of Health and regional epidemiologist Kevin Morris.

“Today we were notified by the Tennessee Department of Health that a resident of Tipton County has tested positive for the novel coronavirus,” the statement read in part. “The patient has been placed in quarantine and is recovering from a mild course of the illness.

“We will continue to closely monitor this evolving situation and will adapt our response as appropriate.”


Memphis Big BBQ races postponed until June

9:05 PM CT, March 19

Memphis Big BBQ Half Marathon 10K & 5K event has been postponed until June 6.

The race at Shelby Farms Park, was originally scheduled for April 11.

Those who were registered for this year’s race have had their registration automatically transferred to the rescheduled date. Those who cannot make the rescheduled date can transfer their registration to next year’s event, which is tentatively on April 10, 2021. They must specify they wish to register for next year’s event online by April 11.

In addition to those options, registrants can run virtually on April 11, by choosing their own race and filling out the online form following their completion of the milage.

The race was postponed after race officials monitored the pandemic and adhered to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline to avoid mass gatherings.


Non-management FedEx employee tests positive for COVID-19

7:37 PM CT, March 19

A non-management employee in FedEx corporate headquarters in Memphis has tested positive for coronavirus.

FedEx said in a statement, “An individual contributor working in the FedEx office building on Shady Grove has reported testing positive for COVID-19 and is currently recovering at home.”

An individual contributor is a non-management employee.

The office building at 942 South Shady Grove near Ridgeway Center is where top officials work.

For the full story, click here.


Periodontal Associates of Memphis closed until April 6

9:17 PM CT, March 19

Periodontal Associates of Memphis is following the advice of the American Dental Association.

The oral-care clinic is closing its East Memphis office until April 6. Doctors will still be available for emergency care as needed and staff will be answering calls during limited hours Monday through Friday.

“It is important to our entire team that we work together as a community to get through these tough times,” an email said, noting that the safety, health and high standards of care are priorities of the office.


Election Commission to meet March 23 to certify election

5:49 PM CT, March 19

The Shelby County Election Commission still plans to meet Monday afternoon, March 23, to certify the results of the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries in Shelby County.

The audited results must be approved in a public meeting and are part of the county-by-county process of certifying election results in Tennessee and thus certifying the winners — in this case the vote counts that determine how many delegates presidential contenders get at the summer national conventions and the winners of the local primaries for General Sessions Court Clerk, who advance to the Aug. 6 ballot.

The five-member body plans on streamlining its Tuesday agenda to include only one item — certifying the results. The commission does not plan to have a public comments part of the meeting, which is a normal feature of its agenda. While the commission is discouraging the public from attending because of CDC guidelines for public gatherings, the meeting remains open to the public.


Oak Hall announces temporary closure

5:44 PM CT, March 19

Oak Hall, which has been in business since 1859, has announced that it will close its stores until it is safe to re-open.

“We’ve done our best to remain open amid the continuing pandemic,” the announcement reads, “but to protect our staff and our community we have decided to temporarily close our stores beginning tomorrow — Friday, March 20.

“We are sensitive to any needs you may have during this time; please don’t hesitate to reach out. We will be happy to schedule a private appointment and can be available for pickups Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.”


Regional One further restricts visitors

5:34 PM CT, March 19

Regional One Health is further restricting visitor access.

As of 8 a.m. Friday, visitors will not be allowed in most areas of the hospital.

A list of exceptions may be found on the hospital’s website,

The exceptions will be honored only if the visitor has no symptoms of respiratory infection including fever, new or changing cough, runny nose or worsening shortness of breath.



Case confirmed in Fayette County

5:14 PM CT, March 19

Fayette County Mayor Rhea Taylor announced Thursday, March 19, that the state Department of Health notified his office that a Fayette County resident had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

According to Taylor’s statement, the patient is quarantined. The person has a mild illness and is recovering, he said. 



coronavirus COVID-19


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