Health Dept. confirms COVID-19 death 

The Shelby County Health Department’s latest released data records a death related to the novel coronavirus.

By policy, the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) does not release identifiable information about specific cases in order to protect privacy.

The latest SCHD report – as of 10 a.m. Saturday morning – shows 275 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A total of 2,773 Shelby County residents to date have been tested for the virus.

Here is a breakdown of current cases by age range:

Govern yourselves accordingly!

Mayor Jim Strickland outlines testing at Tiger Lane and changes to City of Memphis Parks. LISTEN

Remembering MLK – a virtual broadcast

A virtual commemoration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy will be presented on April 4th by the National Civil Rights Museum.

The presentation will mark the 52nd anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, which the museum encompasses.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic surge, the museum has retooled its original event to produce digital content and a virtual broadcast entitled, “Remember MLK: The Man. The Movement. The Moment.”

The program airs from 5 p.m to 6:30 p.m. on April 4. View it on the museum’s website, YouTube, Facebook and Livestream platforms.

The virtual commemoration will include selected segments of MLK50 and past ceremonies, with remarks from civil rights icons the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., the Rev. James Lawson and Dr. Omid Safi, Islamic Studies Duke University.

Performances include selections from the MLK50 Legacy Choir and spoken word by Ed Mabrey.

The broadcast will culminate with an excerpt of “The Mountaintop speech” and a moment of silence and reflection at 6:01 p.m. the time Dr. King was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

“We should always stop and reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King on April 4, but this year it is needed more than ever as we try to navigate through this public health crisis,” said Museum President Terri Lee Freeman.

“Dr. King’s message of economic equity is so relevant. We are seeing the devastation this crisis is taking not just on the health of our communities but on the economic wellbeing of our neighbors,” Freeman said.

“We are seeing just how fragile the financial safety net is for far too many people. Celebrating King’s acceptance of humanity, but disdain of inequity and injustice, is very important in 2020,” she said.

Beginning, Saturday (March 28), the museum will share digital elements to highlight the final year in the life and works of Dr. King – from his delivery of the “Beyond Vietnam” speech, to the “Mountaintop” speech hours prior to his assassination, and subsequent reactions.

Key components shared on the museum’s digital platforms will include:

  • MUSICIANS CALL TO ACTION – Musicians are asked to submit on April 4th — via social media — their rendition of “Precious Lord,” the song made famous by Mahalia Jackson and considered one of Dr. King’s favorites. Musicians are asked to hashtag #PreciousLord and #RememberingMLK to share their posts.
  • STORYTIME – Museum educator, Dory Lerner, will read the children’s book, “Martin’s Big Words,” provide activities and answer questions for parents and children to learn more about Dr. King and his principles.
  • TIMELINE – Starting from March 28 when Dr. King marched for the sanitation workers in Memphis to April 4th when he spent his final hours at the Lorraine Motel. The timeline will illustrate the work he was doing for the “everyday heroes.”
  • FROM THE VAULT – From the museum’s Collections archive, images of never-before-seen condolence letters sent to the Lorraine Motel following King’s death will be shared in the museum’s Collections blog, “From the Vault,” and social media channels.

Visitors to the museum’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn social channels @ncrmuseum will be able to share their stories and thoughts about Dr. King’s legacy and ideas for positive social change.

Moderated comments can also be shared during the virtual broadcast on April 4.

(For more information, visit

Changes to help drivers with licenses, more

In an effort to reduce activity in the Driver Services Centers, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDOSHS) Department has made the following changes:

  • Extended the expiration of Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDL) and Commercial Driving Permits (CDLP) until June 30 if set to expire between March 12, 2020 and May 18, 2020. All non-CDL licenses will expire six months from the date the license is set to expire. The change does not apply to an individual with a Class X license.
  • Suspended non-CDL knowledge and skills tests until May 18.
  •  Suspended the issuance of REAL ID credentials through May 18, 2020.
  • Extended to June 17 the requirement that new Tennessee residents obtain a Tennessee driver license within 30 days of becoming a resident.
  • Allowed Med-Cert extension for CDL holders with a medical card expiring between March 12, 2020 and May 18, 2020. CDL holders have until June 30, 2020 to submit their new Med-Cert to the Department. The extension is available to CDL holders with a medical card that is currently valid for more than 90 days.

Driver Services Centers will still be able to process new and returning residents, photo identification licenses (including voter identification credentials), reinstatements, handgun carry permits, CDL knowledge and skills tests and process renewal and duplicate transactions for non U.S. citizens with legal presence.

Those in need of services are encouraged to check the Department’s website for daily updates for centers that may be closed due to staffing availability.

As announced last week, the Department is also taking the following precautions for the health and safety of employees and customers:

  • Adopting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing all Driver Services Centers and equipment.
  • Providing guidance to personnel regarding precautions to minimize risk of exposure for themselves and customers.
  • Stationing a staff member at the entrance of each Driver Services Center to ensure the number of customers entering the Center does not exceed CDC recommendations.
  • Encouraging and allowing customers to wait in their vehicles using the Department’s queuing technology (E-Ticketing) until notified by text or call to enter the Driver Services Center.
  • Providing protective gear for examiners who interact with customers following TSA procedures.
  • Encouraging customers to use credit or debit cards only to limit handling of cash.

Customers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (coughing, fever, shortness of breath), have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, or have traveled to a high-risk area for COVID-19, are asked to consider the health and safety of employees and other customers and visit a center at another time.

(Visit the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security at www.TN.Gov/safety.)

MATA customers riding free 

Free fares are in effect for all customers riding any mode of public transportation operated by the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) — part of an overall strategy to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The free fares, which unanimously were approved by the Memphis City Council began Wednesday (March 25) and continue until Thursday, April 30.

The move to make MATA rides free during a time when the transit authority is experiencing a drop in ridership was prompted by information provided by public health experts that the Coronavirus COVID-19 can live on paper (such as money and farecards) for days.

Free fares will also help MATA to reinforce social distancing measures. Passengers are asked to board through the rear doors to limit direct contact with the operators. Passengers using assistive devices will still be able to board using the front door/ramp.

“We’re using tape to mark six feet spaces between the customer and the operator and we recently issued additional guidance to space customers apart,” said MATA Chief Executive Officer Gary Rosenfeld.

“(S)o this is another move to try to combat the spread of the disease in Memphis and Shelby County.

Tennessee campaign: ‘Do your part, stay apart’ 

Tennessee has launched a new series of public service announcements to encourage social distancing.

The campaign has the tag line, “Do your part, stay apart,” and features Gov. Lee plus dozens of Tennessee music artists, athletes and sports organizations, according to a news release. Collectively, they reach millions of Tennesseans through their social media platforms.

“The participants have recorded messages from the safety of their homes to emphasize that Tennesseans should stay home as much as possible,” according to the release.

Judges told to submit plan to reduce local jail populations by Monday

In issuing an order Wednesday extending the suspension of most in-person judicial proceedings until April 30, the Tennessee Supreme Court also instructed judges to submit a plan to reduce local jail populations by Monday.

Chief Justice Jeff Bivins

“Reduction in local jail populations is a critical component in controlling the spread of COVID-19,” Chief Justice Jeff Bivins said in a news release.

“There are low-risk, non-violent offenders who can safely be released and supervised by other means to reduce local jail populations. Judges, law enforcement, and attorneys must work together to identify and create an action plan to address this issue.”

Dawn Deaner

A group led by former Davidson County public defender Dawn Deaner is asking the court to go even further. In a petition filed on Tuesday, Deaner’s Choosing Justice Initiative and other groups asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to order the release of a number of prisoners to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The prisoners they would like to see released include those at an elevated risk of developing a serious illness because of age or health, all pregnant inmates, people who are being held in jail pretrial because they cannot afford bail or fees, and children jailed for delinquency.

The releases are requested unless the state can demonstrate the individuals would endanger the community.

They also want to reduce admissions to local jails, many of which are over capacity, by issuing citations and summons in lieu of arrest for all qualifying individuals.

“Like a cruise ship or a nursing home, jails and prisons are an environment in which COVID-19 can easily gain a foothold and spread rapidly with devastating consequences,” the petition states.

March 31 had been set as the end date for the suspension of most in-person judicial proceedings before Wednesday’s order to bump it back to until April 30.

In addition to the directive for judges to put together a plan for prisoner release, the new order also included an instruction to judges not to take action on evictions and displacements except in exceptional circumstances.

No more march meetings for SCS board

The Shelby County Board of Education has canceled its March work session and business meetings.

Miska Clay Bibbs

SCS Board Chair Miska Clay Bibbs sent word through a media release on Wednesday.

“Given the announcement by Governor Lee to extend all school district closures along with the “safer at home” orders by local officials, the Shelby County Board of Education has decided to cancel the March Work Session and Business meetings,” she said in the announcement.

“The support and understanding shown by the community have been greatly appreciated as we work to keep the safety and health of students, employees, and families our top priority. Our current plan is to proceed with the April Work Session and Business meetings as scheduled to continue supporting our District’s efforts.”

A state update on the numbers as of 3/25/2020
The COVID-19 case count for Tennessee is now 784 as of March 25, 2020, including three deaths and 53 hospitalizations.

Juneteenth postpones festival until 2021

This year’s Juneteenth Urban Music Festival is being delayed until 2021, Telisa Franklin, the festival’s president, announced on Tuesday.

In an open letter to the media, Franklin said the decision was made in consultation with the director of operations and the festival’s board of directors — all of whom “understand the serious threat to the community and decided that safety is far more important than to risk the lives of our team, supporters, sponsors, volunteers, and thousands of festival attendees.”

Franklin said the festival still is working to bring “an incredible artists line-up for 2021, the Ultimate Dance Showdown, Juneteenth Empowerment Fair, Youth Evening of Stars, Memphis Juneteenth Lifetime Achievement Awards, Praise Fest at Juneteenth, and more.”

Noting the difficult time for the community, Franklin said, “we are concerned about everyone’s health, safety and recovery. …We will return in 2021. Thanks for your support and please be safe.”

SCS staying closed ‘until further notice

Noting “new guidance” from the governor’s office, Shelby County Schools Supt. Dr. Joris M. Ray has announced that SCS schools will be closed until further notice.

Earlier, Gov. Bill Lee announced his recommendation for Tennessee schools to remain closed through at least April 24.

“Our team is meeting daily to assess rapidly changing development and next steps,” said Ray. “We will continue to seek and adhere to all local, state and national guidance concerning this unprecedented outbreak, and make the best decision on behalf of children in Shelby County.”

The SCS extension will apply to all previous communication the District has shared with employees, students, and families.

According to its latest release, SCS has plans i to continue providing daily meals to students in partnership with the YMCA, and the District is already expanding instructional resources that are available for students while schools are closed.

Doctors plea for stay-at-home order; Gov. Lee extends school closure date

NASHVILLE (AP) — Doctors across Tennessee pleaded with Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday to take stronger action to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. READ MORE

Shelby County Update

Shelby County had logged 135 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of 2 p.m. Monday (March 23).

All out-of-county residents have been transferred to their local health department jurisdictions. Going forward, Shelby County Health Department will only track resident cases.

Harris puts county under stay-at-home order

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced at Monday’s coronavirus update that an executive stay-at-home order would be issued similar to the one announced earlier in the day by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

Harris’s order will cover unincorporated areas of Shelby County. Mayors of all municipalities in Shelby County signaled that they were issuing similar stay-at-home orders for non-essential travel and non-essential services, effective Tuesday (March 24) at 6 p.m.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were 93 confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Shelby County as of Monday, March 23. That’s up from the 84 the Shelby County Health Department announced earlier in the day. The 84 included 80 Shelby County residents and four non-residents.

The total statewide was 615 cases and two deaths. The Department of Health’s new numbers include two cases in Fayette County and six cases in Tipton County. 

“it is important for everyone to be on the same page at this point,” said Harris. Otherwise, those who want to eat out will simply migrate to another city, if surrounding counties are not also under the same order.

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said continuing spike in confirmed cases is evidence that the virus is being spread through the workplace.

“We want to, again, remind everyone who feels sick to please not go to work,” she said. “Employers should look for ways to maintain social distancing with remote work at home policies and other precautionary measures.”

— Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell

RE: Mayor Strickland’s stay-at-home order


What’s an essential business under a Safer in Place order?
The Greater Memphis Area Chamber reports that one of the key questions from Memphis area companies is “how to determine whether or not they are considered an essential business.”
The Chamber has outlined how essential businesses are classified based on the Safer at Home order Mayor Jim Strickland issued today (March 23). READ MORE

And more about the stay at home order:


  • Mayor Strickland’s Safer at Home Executive Order will not affect the YMCA’s food service to students.
  • There is no curfew requirement in the Mayor’s Executive Order.

Recent headlines

To meet or not meet? Churches deal with the question

I went to church yesterday. Here’s what happened.

Meeting the need to feed in Frayser and beyond

Tiger pantry program adjusts its operation to help students


Earlier posts of TSD’s COVID-19 Flash!

TSD COVID-19! Flash