Another indication of the reach of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Faith leaders weigh in on re-opening

A group of 15 clergy, representing major dioceses and congregations in West Tennessee, are calling for what they label a moral, thoughtful approach to move the community forward instead one driven solely by political, economic or even health concerns.

In a statement released today, the clergy group said, “We do not presume to speak for all clergy in the city and surrounding areas, but we hope that our voices reflect the wide and deep fabric of Memphis and West Tennessee’s congregational life.”

Four guiding principles were outlined:

  1. We will rely on the medical and scientific community as our primary resource for information.
  2. We will work collaboratively to responsibly care for those who contract COVID-19.
  3. We will collaborate to determine when returning to in-person worship is possible.
  4. We will continue to speak up.

An invitation was issued for all faith leaders in Memphis and West Tennessee to sign the Clergy COVID-19 Response Statement and support the guiding principles. Visit ChurchHealth.org/fce.

The signors to the letter include:

  • Imam Anwar Arafat, Islamic Center of Tennessee
  • Bishop Linwood Dillard, Citadel of Deliverance COGIC
  • Bishop William T. McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area, UMC
  • Rabbi Micah D. Greenstein, Temple Israel
  • Scott Morris, MD, MDiv, Church Health
  • Bishop Phoebe Roaf, Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee
  • Pastor John Siebeling, The Life Church
  • Rev. Deborah B. Smith, Metro District, UMC
  • Rev. Rufus Smith, Hope Church Memphis
  • Rev. Dr. Stacy L. Spencer, New Direction Christian Church
  • Rev. Dr. Shane Stanford, Christ United Methodist Church
  • Rev. Dr. Gina M. Stewart, Christ Missionary Baptist Church
  • Bishop David P. Talley, Catholic Diocese of Memphis
  • Rev. Dr. J. Lawrence Turner, Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church
  • Rev. Scott Walters, Calvary Episcopal Church

DEMS: Make voter health a priority; expand voting by mail, early voting

Tennesseans should not have to choose between their health and casting a vote this year, Democrats in the Senate say.

An April 27 letter, co-signed by each member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, is urging Gov. Bill Lee and Secretary of State Tre Hargett, the state’s top election official, to develop a statewide plan to protect voters from coronavirus.

Democrats are advocating for at least three measures to protect the health of voters and reduce crowd sizes on Election Day:

* Absentee voting by mail for any voter who wants to;
* Expanded early voting options, including additional days, locations and hours;
* Require voting precincts to be approved by county health officials.

“Administering fair, accessible elections during a pandemic is new territory. But we do not have to choose between public health and a functioning democracy,” the caucus wrote. “We have the resources, ability and time to ensure everyone can register, cast a ballot and have their vote counted – without compromising their health.”

In-person early voting for the August state primary is scheduled to begin across the state on July 17.

Democrats pointed to the state of Wisconsin, which conducted in-person elections in early April, as a reason Tennessee should move forward with additional health safeguards like “no excuse” absentee voting by mail. On April 24, health officials there reported 40 people in Milwaukee County alone contracted coronavirus as a result of participating in the election.

Currently, 34 states and Washington, D.C. either require or allow voters to cast a ballot by mail with no excuse. Tennessee allows voting by mail if a voter satisfies one of 14 reasons – none of which would apply to otherwise healthy voters who only want to avoid crowds that may be carrying Covid-19.

The senators also took issue with local election commissions that are planning to consolidate voting precincts, as was reported in Shelby County.

“The exact opposite of social distancing in elections is precinct consolidation. Combining polling locations, at face value, reduces access to voting AND increases the number of voters in a single place,” the letter states. “If promoting physical distance and reducing the spread of a highly contagious virus are our shared goals, the state should be providing science-based guidance to local election officials against any counterproductive measures.”

To eliminate decisions to promote voter health being made by untrained election officials, Democrats suggested that local health departments should review and approve every voting precinct.

“To show voters our commitment to their health and safety, state election officials, in conjunction with the governor’s office, should require that every voting precinct be reviewed and approved by a local or regional health department,” Democrats said. “Health department officials should direct election commissions on the appropriateness of precinct venues, setup and additional measures to prevent virus transmission.”

READ the full letter


Live at the Garden 2020 Season canceled

Live at the Garden today announced that due to cancellations of touring music acts during the summer and fall this year, it has canceled its 2020 season. The season line-up was to have been announced on May 6 during a Facebook Live event.

“This season was to be our 20th anniversary and we had a lot of exciting things planned to celebrate. However, three of the acts we had booked for this season have understandably canceled their tours due to the unpredictability of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sherry May, Co-Director, Live at the Garden. “We are of course devastated as are all of our patrons who have made this music series a part of their lives, some for our full 20 years.”

All table holders, as well as sponsors, have been offered the choice of either converting their investment in the season into a tax-deductible donation to the Memphis Botanic Garden, applying the money toward a table or sponsorship for 2021, or receiving a full refund, or a combination of all three.

“Live at the Garden is the single largest fundraising source for the Memphis Botanic Garden, accounting for approximately 25 percent of annual revenues,” said Michael Allen, executive director of the Memphis Botanic Garden. “This cancellation, combined with other losses of earned income such as rentals, educational programming, and daily admissions is seriously effecting our ability to operate and provide programming at the Garden. I am hopeful that our patrons will convert their payments for this year into a donation to the Garden”.

Live at the Garden is still hopeful that a 20th Anniversary Concert can be held later in the year to celebrate the milestone. That will be dependent on rules for gatherings and potential artist availability. Live at the Garden is also exploring online opportunities and will offer commemorative merchandise to celebrate the milestone.

(Follow Live at the Garden at www.liveatthegarden.com and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for details.)

 


Shelby County Health Department COVID-19 Daily Update: April 28, 2020

Shelby County currently has 2358 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The total number of deaths in Shelby County attributed to COVID-19 is 46.

The Shelby County Health Department is investigating clusters of infection in a number of facilities that serve vulnerable populations.

Shelby County COVID-29 Cases by Race and Ethnicity as of 4/27/20

Visit the Shelby County Health Department COVID-19 webpage: www.shelbytnhealth.com/coronavirus.


Today’s TSD Music Vibe: