Coronavirus live blog, April 15: County approves $2.5M for virus expenses

By Updated: May 08, 2020 8:41 AM CT | Published: April 15, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do

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.

And, to get breaking news delivered directly to your inbox when it happens, opt in to our Breaking News updates here.


April 15, 2020

Recommendation to keep schools closed ends 2020 prep sports season

5:10 PM CT, April 15

Gov. Bill Lee’s recommendation Wednesday that Tennessee schools remain closed the rest of the academic year has led the TSSAA to cancel the high school sports calendar for the 2019-2020 season.

The decision came after Lee’s recommendation based on the ongoing coronavirus situation.


TSSAA reiterates athletics policies while schools are closed


The decision will impact the remainder of the girls and boys Division 1 state basketball tournaments, which were suspended in March, along with the rest of the baseball, softball, boys soccer, tennis and track seasons. 

Read More

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Shelby County to spend $2.5 million in COVID-19 fight

4:32 PM CT, April 15

A resolution that spends $2 million toward coronavirus expenses and allocates $500,000 to Christ Community Health Services for expanded coronavirus testing passed in a Shelby County Commission committee meeting on Wednesday, April 15 and in a special called meeting of the full commission shortly after.

The resolution, which passed 12-0, was presented by Commissioner Tami Sawyer, who was disappointed that the commission was unable last week to coalesce around funding legislation for COVID-19 expenses.

The original $2 million expense was amended spend to $2.5 million and follows the expenditures recommended by county administration. Those include $848,000 for personal protective equipment, $828,00 to hire three social workers and a bilingual translator and $325,000 to cover overtime costs for health department and emergency management employees.

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At least 232 hospitalized who may have COVID

2:45 PM CT, April 15

A total of 137 people were hospitalized in Memphis as of Tuesday with COVID-19 and another 95 were hospitalized while under investigation for having the virus.

That’s according to the latest figures from the state’s Health Resource Tracking System. The numbers don’t include a report from the Veterans Affairs Memphis hospital or Saint Francis Bartlett hospital.

Of those with the COVID virus, 93 were in acute care and 44 were intensive case with 21 on ventilators. Of the cases under investigation, 73 were in acute care and 22 in intensive care with 10 on ventilators.

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Coronavirus testing locations

4:16 PM CT, April 15

Baptist Health – by appointment only, call 866-941-4785  

Testing is being done at Baptist Memorial Hospital-ColliervilleBaptist Minor Medical Center-Olive Branch, Pop-Up Testing at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, and Pop-Up Testing at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto

 

Christ Community Health Services Third Street Health Center – 3362 S 3rd St Memphis, TN 38109  By appointment only, call 901-842-3166 or Text “Test2020” to 91999  

 

Church Health – 1350 Concourse Ave By appointment only, call (901) 272-0003

 

Memphis Health Center – 360 E. H. Crump Blvd. By appointment only, call (901) 261-2042

 

Tri State Community Health Center – 1725 Pinebrook By appointment only, call (901) 572-1573

 

Case Management, Inc – 3171 Directors Row By appointment only, call (901) 821-5880 or email COVID-19TestCMI@cmiofmemphis.org

Memphis Fairgrounds Tiger Lane Memphis, TN 38104  By appointment only, Text “covid” to 901-203-5526.

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Governor calls for closing for remainder of school year

3:05 PM CT, April 15

Gov. Bill Lee called for school districts statewide Wednesday, April 15, to keep classrooms closed through the remainder of this academic year and start making plans to reopen this fall with social distancing and other precautions to keep children from spreading the coronavirus.


Governor urges all school districts to close for coronavirus


The governor’s move comes with the state in the midst of a “safer at home” order set through April 30, after which Lee plans to start phasing in an economic reboot. No plan has been established for the economy to restart.

Lee’s decision is not an enforceable order, but he said he expects all systems to follow his recommendation and noted his administration would speak with any district that decides to reopen. McNairy County Schools in southwest Tennessee had already announced it would stay closed.

Read More

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Tennessee adds 256 cases, 11 deaths

2:08 PM CT, April 15

There are 256 more confirmed coronavirus cases in Tennessee since yesterday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. 

From Monday to Tuesday, the statewide number of cases grew by 213, from 5,610 to 5,823.

Along with 6,079 cases, there are now 135 deaths attributed to the virus, an increase of 11. On Monday there were 109 deaths attributed to the virus; on Tuesday there were 124 deaths attributed to the virus.

There have been 80,896 tests performed, up from 78,831 on Tuesday and 76,195 on Monday.

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Governor announces free COVID-19 testing statewide

2:20 PM CT, April 15

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced free COVID-19 testing will be available for any Tennessean, regardless of traditional symptoms, as the Unified Command group ramps up an aggressive effort to expand testing capacity across the state.

“As we look to reboot our state’s economy, we must have a greater understanding of how this virus is operating in Tennessee,” said Lee. “Expanding our COVID-19 testing capacity allows more Tennesseans to have improved access to testing which will empower citizens to make informed health decisions.”

In recent weeks, states across the country have grappled with the availability of tests and supplies needed to conduct COVID-19 tests, as well as the backlog for processing tests. Rapid improvements to the testing apparatus allowed the Unified Command Group, comprised of the Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Military and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), to develop expanded capacity and offer targeted testing across the state.

“Our clinical understanding of COVID-19 is changing rapidly and we need every Tennessean who isn’t feeling well, even outside of the traditional COVID-19 symptoms of cough, fever or difficulty breathing, to come out and get tested,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.

The expanded testing effort launches this weekend, April 18-19, 2020, with the Tennessee National Guard popping up 15 drive-thru testing sites across the state. Drive-thru testing sites will also be available during the weekends of April 25-26 and May 2-3.

A full list of sites can be accessed here. In addition to drive-thru sites, all rural county health departments across the state offer free COVID-19 testing five days a week.

Tennessee Department of Health Nurses and Tennessee National Guard medics will perform tests at each site and results are projected to be delivered to participants within 72 hours of testing.

“Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, quickly detecting this illness, isolating if ill and practicing social distancing are the most powerful tools we have to stop the spread and help our state return to work,” said Piercey. “I encourage every Tennessean to remember: ‘when in doubt, get a test’ as we work to identify COVID-19 cases and keep our neighbors safe.”

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Strickland comes clean on car washes

2:27 PM CT, April 15

At one point during our extended conversation Wednesday, April 15, with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland he began talking about the details of why car washes have become such a recurring problem in enforcing the city’s current state of emergency.

The conversation occurred during taping of the  “Behind The Headlines” program, which will air on WKNO.

He stopped at one point to say it was probably the most time any of us had spent talking about car washes.

A total of 60 local businesses have been cited – written tickets – for violating the city’s order of civil emergency as of Wednesday’s daily briefing by the COVID-19 task force. Of that, 54 of the businesses complied and closed without any further action by city code enforcement officers. The six hold-outs as of Wednesday afternoon were all car washes – a business sector that has proven to be a dilemma.

There are different kinds of car washes. Some offer hand washes, some offer interior detailing with the car wash, and still others are automated to some degree.

All of them are considered nonessential businesses by the city’s state of emergency and thus must be closed.

“There are a lot of car washes where the whole thing is automated,” Strickland said Wednesday, April 15. “You don’t even get out of your car. Should that be allowed?”

The emergency declaration has been changed some since the first version was issued in late March, and there will likely be some more tweaking.

“There are so many different kinds of car washes – and so many are automated – maybe that ought to be allowed because there is social distancing,” Strickland said. “I’m not saying we will do it, but that’s on the radar.”

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Beneficiaries of First Horizon Foundation gift announced

2:09 PM CT, April 15

Details on how a recent $2.5 million donation by the First Horizon Foundation will be used to support COVID-19 relief efforts were revealed Wednesday, April 15.

made a $2.5 million donation throughout its communities to support.

Several local organizations were chosen to help the broadest number of individuals and families impacted during this health care crisis. They include:

- Salvation Army: Funding to support its Canteen Food Ministry, which will provide approximately 8,000 meals to those in need over the next 30 days.

Read More

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Eley appointed to lead Tennessee Finance & Administration Department through COVID-19 crisis

1:13 PM CT, April 15

Gov. Bill Lee has announced the appointment of Butch Eley to serve as the commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration (F&A). Eley currently serves as Chief Operating Officer in the governor’s office and will continue to coordinate efforts between departments in the interim.

“The Department of Finance and Administration will play a crucial role in the reboot of our state’s economy and Butch brings significant expertise to the role as our state faces economic changes,” Lee said. “His knowledge of the private sector and service as our chief operating officer will ensure we keep Tennessee in a fiscally sound position by prudent management of state services.”

Prior to joining the Lee Administration, Eley was a founder and CEO of Infrastructure Corporation of America (ICA). Headquartered in Nashville, ICA was one of the nation’s leading infrastructure asset maintenance management companies with comprehensive asset management contracts throughout the country.

Eley was also a partner and eventually president at the Ingram Group, a premier public affairs and advisory firm in Tennessee. At the Ingram Group, he specialized in helping companies interact with multiple levels of government.

He replaces Stuart McWhorter, who is leading the governor’s COVID-19 Unified Command to fight the pandemic.

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The latest coronavirus cases, by the numbers

8:56 AM CT, April 15

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Strickland: ‘We need to box this virus in’

12:15 PM CT, April 15

Today’s COVID-19 task force daily briefing will include Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

Strickland opened by pushing testing which goes to our earlier post about Tiger Lane being underused as a test site. He adds more capacity in Frayser and Hickory Hill starting Friday as we reported here earlier.

“There is no reason for you not to get tested if you have symptoms,” he said.

He goes on to mention a Tuesday call with Gov. Bill Lee and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. He said they are navigating a “bumpy road” to economic recovery for the state.

Tomorrow, a local group will meet to talk about economic recovery here. Strickland emphasizes he doesn’t know yet the timing of reopening. This is planning on how to do it with more details to come.

Code enforcement officers made calls on 261 complaints: 180 of 260 were in compliance when visited, 54 cited and complied, six are hold-outs, which is what it has been for the last week or so. All are car washes.

Bruce Randolph, Health Department Health Officer, said there is a positivity rate of 9.5% for the county.

On nursing homes, the Health Department is investigating “clusters” in “a number of facilities”: Carriage Court with three dead, Christian Care Center, Parkway Health and Rehab, Heritage at Irene Woods -- now five residents positive there, King’s Daughter and Sons House, three residents and one staff member positive.

Randolph also dispels the “myth” that if tested, you will be infected. He said it is untrue:  “Testing doesn’t give it to you.”

Rallings said that first responders are doing well despite challenges. Police priority is public safety and focusing on educating the community about the Safer at Home order and other restrictions.

The emphasis on voluntary compliance but they “will make arrests if necessary.”

There have been three arrests so far for violating Safer at Home order, Rallings said.

There have been 388 calls of violations for the month, about 27 a day. Most of the calls on business violations go to code enforcement and the Health Department handling is churches. The 911 call volume is unchanged from a year ago.

There is no change in CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) or mental health calls year over year.

MPD has 28 who are positive: 22 commissioned, six civilian; 86 are quarantined.

MPD has 61 recruits in the academy who graduate in July. This past Saturday, Operation Spring Clean started to focus on crime overall, with nine arrests so far.

As of April 13, the Memphis Police Department said Part One crimes that include homicides, manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson – are down 0.8%.

But auto thefts and non-residential thefts are up. MPD said they are having issues with people leaving their cars running when they get out and people are not stowing or removing items from their cars.

To date, there have been 52 homicides compared to 46 around the same time period last year.

With families being at home because of COVID-19 and the Safer at Home orders, advocates worry that domestic violence incidents would increase.

In Memphis, MPD said they have not seen an increase in domestic violence related cases since the March 24 Safer at Home order went into effect.

In March, the latest numbers available showed that the department handled 1,219 domestic violence cases in March, 2019 and in March, 2020, the DV unit has handled 1,214 – a 0.4 percent decrease.

Randolph says on nursing homes and clusters or outbreaks they’re encouraging senior care facilities to limit who enters facilities and to check temperatures. They’re also lso working on other protocols specifically for nursing homes and senior care facilities.

 “We do not want this to get out of hand,” he said.

”The bottom line is you should stay engaged,” Randolph advises those with loved ones in senior facilities.

Strickland said his priority is still preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed and cases going down before the local economy is reopened. 

He also said we need more tests and more people taking the tests and then contact tracing with isolation. 

”We need to box this virus in. Testing has to be there -- a lot more testing than we have now,” he said. “The number one challenge of doing that I believe is having the quantity of testing and testing material that we would need.”

Randolph said there has been some infection of health care workers, but that it’s “not drastically affecting” the response so far.

Randolph said contact tracing is being handled adequately, but they’re looking for measures going into a late May to mid-June surge.

Rallings said personal protective equipment (PPE) has been issued to all cops and all must wear. Staffing across the county is “appropriate to respond to our calls for service.” The city cancelled vacations for MPD early on. On how MPD infections happen -- same as the general community, he said.

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Shelby County death toll rises to 33

11:56 AM CT, April 15

Shelby County now has 33 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, Alisa Haushalter, Health Department director told the County Commission in an update on Wednesday, April 15.

Haushalter told the commissioners that she received the report on two additional deaths after the county’s update had been released earlier in the morning.

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ArtsMemphis, Music Export Memphis to distribute $77,190 to 159 artists

11:48 AM CT, April 15

Two local organizations are distributing $77,190 to 159 Shelby County artists this week through the Artist Emergency Fund.

ArtsMemphis and Music Export Memphis are distributing the grants, which were made possible by a Community Foundation of Greater Memphis COVID-19 Regional Response Fund grant, and along with donations from the Assisi Foundation, Crosstown Arts, Hyde Family Foundation and individuals.

The fund became public April 1 and can be used to support artists creating music, visual art, film and media arts, literary arts, theater and dance. 

The groups announced that the Kresge Foundation is donating $100,000 to ArtsMemphis and $85,000 to Music Export Memphis for future Artist Emergency Fund grants. 

The application deadline for the next round of grants is April 22. Artists can apply for grants here.

ArtsMemphis community survey of local art organizations and individual artists predicts more than $1.19 million in lost income for March 2020 for organizations and $507,000 for individual artists. And the anticipated income loss for April through June based on cancellations and postponements is more than $7.4 million for organizations and $1.45 million for individual artists.

The survey, completed by 61 groups and 200 individuals, can be found here

“The Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund is a reflection of trusted relationships and a shared, immediate desire to provide relief to those hit the hardest in our community,” said Bob Fockler, President of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, in a statement. “ArtsMemphis’ ability to, in short order, activate, aggregate and expedite funds to artists in three dozen zip codes is exactly how we intended this to work.”

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Friday looks to be big day for ramp-up in COVID testing

11:22 AM CT, April 15

The ramp up in testing for COVID-19 will move into more areas of the city with a Friday announcement of more mobile testing, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Wednesday, April 15.

“We’ll announce Friday -- the task force will -- that we’re going to expand testing into areas like Frayser and Hickory Hill – more mobile testing,” Strickland said during a recording of the WKNO Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines” to air Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. The video of the program will be posted online at The Daily Memphian later Wednesday.

The effort also includes testing at Memphis Housing Authority sites across the city as well as mobile testing for those who are homeless.

Strickland and the countywide COVID-19 task force have a goal of getting testing up to 1,000 citizens a day. The effort currently is at around 750 tests a day.

Strickland said some of that is that fewer citizens are coming to those test sites already open to give the test. Testing at least for now remains limited to those who are symptomatic and has shifted in recent days to include those with what are considered minor symptoms. As the testing becomes mobile and goes to people who may not have a physician, Strickland said someone saying they think they have the virus will be sufficient to warrant a test.

“We have a couple of places right now that can be used,” he said. “The other challenge is getting testing out into the community and then the number of tests is a challenge and the manpower to give the test.”

Meanwhile, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings is scheduled to make his first appearance Wednesday at the daily noon COVID-19 task force briefing which can be seen live on this website.

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Watch today’s joint COVID-19 Task Force/Health Department briefing live

12:00 PM CT, April 15

Today’s joint COVID-19 Task Force/Shelby County Health Department briefing is set to feature Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings and officials from the health department. 

Watch below:

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Health Department identifies outbreaks at 4 more long-term care facilities

10:43 AM CT, April 15

The Shelby County Health Department is working with seven long-term care facilities with coronavirus outbreaks.

Some were identified last week, but not reported by the Health Department until Wednesday.

It identified an outbreak at Christian Care Center of Memphis Wednesday, April 4. Four residents and three staff are affected.

Saturday outbreaks were identified at Heritage at Irene Woods and Kings and Daughters Sons Home. 

Five residents have the virus at Heritage at Irene Woods and staff remains unaffected.

Three residents and one staff member have the virus at Kings Daughters and Sons Home.

In addition to The Village at Germantown, the Health Department identified an outbreak at Delta Specialty Hospital. Staff is unaffected at this time, but three residents have COVID-19.

The Health Department released Carriage Court and Parkway outbreaks last week. The Village released its numbers Sunday and the Health Department addressed the facility in its Monday briefing.

Date identified   Facility  Residents Staff  Deaths
3/26 Carriage Court Assisted Living 7 1 3
4/8 Christian Care Center of Memphis 4 3  
4/8 Parkway Health and Rehabilitation 8 2  
4/11 Heritage at Irene Woods 5    
4/11 Kings Daughters and Sons Home 3 1  
4/12 Delta Specialty Hospital 3    
4/12 The Village at Germantown 5 2  

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Governor fashions economic reboot around risk of virus spread

11:04 AM CT, April 15

Gov. Bill Lee acknowledged Tennessee runs the risk of a COVID-19 surge when the state starts to reopen the economy in May, but he argued an economic shutdown can’t continue for months.

Part of the plan to avert renewed spread when the economy starts running again involves increased testing and maintaining hospital capacity.

“Because as we take steps to begin to open up our economy, we clearly have a risk there of an increase in COVID cases,” Lee told Tennessee legislators in a weekly conference call. The Daily Memphian gained access to the call.

The state will depend more on data such as available hospital beds than COVID-19 models to set its economic recovery strategy, the governor added.

A University of Washington model puts Tennessee’s COVID-19 peak at April 17, while a Vanderbilt University model sets it at mid-May with aggressive testing and contact tracing and mid-June with a status quo approach.

Stuart McWhorter, leader of the COVID-19 Unified Command, pointed out his group talks daily with the Tennessee Hospital Association to see where its facilities stand as well as with Sam Hazen, CEO of Hospital Corporation of America, which has hospitals nationwide and deals with the disease on a wider scale.

“The whole reason we’re flattening the curve for the most part is to keep the capacity at manageable levels at the hospitals, and we’ve been able to do that,” said McWhorter, a former hospital administrator.

As a result, the state is no longer pursuing alternative hospital sites such as the Music City Center in Nashville and locations in Memphis that “could be stood up quickly” by late or early May, though they could remain options if necessary, he said.

Instead, the command is looking at locations in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga that could serve as long-term solutions for 12 to 18 months if alternative sites are needed, McWhorter said.

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Four Shelby County airports to receive CARES Act grants

10:40 AM CT, April 15

Congressman Steve Cohen, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, today announced $24,894,552 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act grants to four Shelby County airports.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will provide $24,687,552 to Memphis International Airport and grants of $69,000 each to General DeWitt Spain Airport in Memphis, the Charles W. Baker Airport south of Millington and the Millington-Memphis Airport in Millington.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“Air travel has been severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak. There were fewer than 12 people on my last flight to Washington, and that included the crew. Our airports are hurting and this funding will help them stay afloat until we get this pandemic behind us.”

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DeSoto County reports third coronavirus-related death

10:30 AM CT, April 15

The Mississippi Department of Health has reported the third death in DeSoto County from complications of the coronavirus.

MSDH reported 273 new COVID-19 cases for a total of 3,360. Additionally, 11 people have died for  total of 122

In DeSoto County, there are 199  cases – an increase of 11 from Tuesday according to MSDH. One long-term care facility in the county has an outbreak, MSDH said. The department declined to identify the facility.

Marshall County has reported one new case. The first new case since Monday. The county still has two deaths due to virus complications, according to MSDH.

MSDH numbers show Hinds County in the Jackson metropolitan area has 280 cases – the most in the state. 

MSDH reports the highest number of deaths in Lauderdale County. It reported two additional deaths Wednesday for a total of 13.

MSDH is monitoring 66 long-term care facilities for COVID-19 outbreaks.

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Shelby County confirms new 81 coronavirus cases, additional death

10:07 AM CT, April 15

Shelby County now has 1,432 confirmed coronavirus cases with 31 deaths, according to the latest numbers from the Shelby County Health Department.

This is an increase of 81 new cases from the 1,351 reported Tuesday, April 14. 

In Shelby County, more than 15,000 tests have now been taken - 15,082 - with a 9.5% positivity rate.

There have been 292 recoveries from coronavirus in Shelby County, according to the latest data from state’s Department of Health.

Statewide, there are 5,823 cases with 124 deaths as of Tuesday, April 14.

In Tennessee, the total number of tests taken is 78,831 with a 7.4% positive rate.

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St. Jude patient tests positive

8:47 AM CT, April 15

A patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a statement from the hospital, the patient was tested there as part of a series of tests and screenings available for patients, their families and hospital staff.

“Because of patient privacy and confidentiality laws, we cannot share private information, but we can tell you the patient likely contracted COVID-19 in the Mid-South community and is quarantined at home. The patient’s time on campus was short, and St. Jude clinical care staff took all appropriate precautions. No other patients or employees were exposed,” the hospital said.

“In addition, we have identified several cases of COVID-19 in our employees. This is not surprising as testing has increased and COVID-19 is peaking in the Mid-South. The employees work in both patient care and non-patient care positions. St. Jude is working closely with health authorities who are handling proper notifications.”

Soon after the virus emerged in Asia, St. Jude began preparing for COVID-19 and implemented its emergency operations plan to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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April 14, 2020

State park closing extended during pandemic

8:20 PM CT, April 14

:Tennessee State Parks today announced it will extend the closure of all 56 state parks as officials at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation continue to monitor health and safety guidance related to COVID-19.

 The announcement extends Tennessee State Parks’ current closure beyond the previously announced April 14. Officials are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will notify the public when parks reopen.

“We are grateful for the cooperation and understanding of Tennesseans during this difficult period,” Jim Bryson, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said. “We are extending closure of the parks in the interest of safety for everyone.” 

 Tennessee has one of the top state park systems in the country. As the weather grew warmer, state parks saw staggering increases in visitor traffic, including from out of state visitors. While normally desirable, this increased visitation presented situations where it was difficult for park visitors and staff to maintain safe distances from each other.

 “We want to make sure that when we do reopen, visitors and our park staff can feel confident in their safety,” Bryson said. “With health and safety at the forefront, we look forward to getting people back into the outdoors – beyond their backyards and neighborhoods – to experience the natural wonders our state has to offer.”

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Rhodes postpones commencement

10:21 PM CT, April 14

Rhodes College President Marjorie Hass sent a note to the senior class on Tuesday, telling them that their May 16 graduation had been postponed.

But it wasn’t just a note. It was an acknowledgment that all these changes may hurt too much actually be able to put into words. Here are excerpts from her note:

“Some of you have told me that you hesitate to express your real feelings about commencement because it seems like a small thing in comparison to lost lives, lost jobs and the risks that front-line medical workers and others are taking. Perhaps that is true. But loss isn’t a contest. Grief doesn’t portion itself out in rational measures.

Read More

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Baker Donelson slashes pay firmwide 20%

4:31 PM CT, April 14

The Memphis-based mega-law firm Baker Donelson is temporarily reducing pay 20% firmwide, as part of a continuing response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The more than 700-lawyer firm also said it would furlough fewer than 4% of employees.

The cuts are part of an effort to maintain cash flow in the face of a drop in business because of COVID-19.

Baker Donelson is the namesake of the late U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. and civic leader Lewis R. Donelson III, who died in 2018. The 64th largest U.S. law firm, it has more than 90 attorneys in its Memphis office, one of 21 offices nationally.

A company statement said:

“Baker Donelson has been and continues to be in a strong financial position.

“With so much of the economy shut down, we took proactive measures to prepare for the anticipated impact on collections from some of our clients and to ensure the financial stability of the firm moving forward. 

“Like many firms, these measures have included temporary 20% salary reductions across the Firm and furloughs that impacted less than 4% of the firm’s entire workforce and that were limited to employees whose jobs do not allow remote work.

“Our expectation is that all of these measures are temporary, and that we will be able to bring back the furloughed team members and restore pay to previous levels.”

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