A third case of COVID-19 in Shelby County, detected by private laboratory results, is being investigated by the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD).

According to SCHD, the case is not related to the first two. Also, the individual is not a resident of Shelby County and had recently traveled to several other states.

“Based on the travel history, and date of onset of symptoms, the individual appears to have contracted the virus due to exposure outside of Shelby County.

“The Health Department is now conducting contact tracing to identify persons who may have been exposed to the third case,” Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said. “But the threat to the general public is thought to be low as the individual does not appear to have contracted the virus here in Shelby County.”

Isolated in a residential setting, the individual reportedly only experienced minor symptoms.

As a reminder:

The symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe and include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Members of the general public can take simple steps to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses including COVID-19:

  • Avoiding unnecessary travel, particularly to states or regions which have reported community transmission of the virus;
  • Limiting meetings or gatherings of people to no more than 10 persons;
  • Practicing social distancing by remaining home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of six feet from other people;
  • Washing hands with liquid soap and water, and rubbing for at least 20 seconds, or using alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing;
  • Staying home when sick; and
  • Regularly cleaning surfaces touched by many people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that older persons (60 and over) and those with underlying chronic health conditions should stay home as much as possible and avoid crowds. Wearing face masks is not necessary for the general public and may not provide protection from the virus.

If you experience symptoms of respiratory illness, including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing:

  • Avoid public spaces and gatherings
  • Avoid others in your household
  • If medical attention is needed,
  • contact your health care provider before going in for care, and
  • share any history of travel, to other countries or other states.

The Health Department’s hotline number (833-943-1658), is available 7 days a week for the public to call with specific questions and requests for technical assistance. The number is staffed during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After-hours calls will be returned on the next business day.

The Health Department has compiled informational resources on a COVID-19 page on its website www.shelbytnhealth.com/coronavirus.

State of Emergency in Memphis declared

FROM THE OFFICE OF MAYOR JIM STRICKLAND:

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential impact on the City, I am issuing a declaration of emergency for the city of Memphis effective immediately. This declaration allows the City and its departments and agencies to seek any and all necessary federal and state funding to facilitate the response to the Emergency. Additionally, all required procedures and formalities as to procurements on behalf of the City are hereby suspended for purchased of equipment, materials, supplies and services needed for Emergency management purposes.” READ MORE

Dental care adjustments at Christ Community Health Services

Christ Community Health Services has suspended all routine and non-emergency dental care because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic based on a recommendation from the American Dental Association.

“In 2019, Christ Community Health Services was a dental home to nearly 13,000 patients who come to us for a variety of dental needs,” Shantelle Leatherwood, chief executive officer said. “This recommendation from the Dental Association is based on an abundance of caution due to the nature of dental work. Although dental services are reducing, our medical services and pharmacy services will continue to serve our patients.”

Christ Community will continue to handle emergency dental procedures in all locations and patients should contact 901-842-3160 to schedule an emergency procedure, said Dr. Rasone Jones, chair of dentistry.

“We will reschedule patients for all elective procedures once the Dental Association recommends it is safe to do so. This decision is not made lightly but is taken in the best interest of our patients and providers,” Jones said.

According to its website, the ADA recommends that “dentists nationwide postpone elective procedures for the next three weeks, concentrating on emergency dental care,” which would allow for care of emergency patients and “alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments.”

Dr. Ben Andrews, chief clinical officer for Christ Community, said it’s important for the community to remain informed and prepared.

“Just like in the heavy flu season, we want to remind our patients to wash their hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick and prevent spreading germs practicing social distancing. …And we have taken extra precautions to ensure, during the outbreak of this virus, that we continue to provide high-quality health care to all who visit our clinics.”

County Commission poised to go online only

Shelby County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mark Billingsley has sent out a missive regarding the implementation of temporary guidelines for committee and commission meetings.

In his message to commissioners, Billingsley noted that after speaking with several of them and consulting Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter, he planned to call committees to order at 8:30 a.m. in the lobby chambers on Wednesday (March 17).

“The room has been sanitized and we can share smiles and kind words but no personal contact or handshakes. Social distancing of visitors will be monitored and enforced by deputies,” said Billingsley.

The is a planned demonstration of the implementation of online meetings for the foreseeable future.

“I am planning for this to begin on Monday, March 23.  Dr. Haushalter plans to give us an update on the COVID-19 threat at the outset of tomorrow’s meeting.  If, for any reason you don’t feel comfortable attending tomorrow, please let me know so I can address appropriately.”

The expectation, he reiterated, is that Wednesday’s meeting will be the last face-to-face meeting for a number of months.

“We will continue to lead, but with a new norm until the COVID-19 threat passes.”

Tennessee lawmakers eye quick finish amid virus restrictions

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers acknowledged they were shirking federal health recommendations on the coronavirus by sitting in close quarters as they conducted business Tuesday.

They also drew questions about whether they were staying focused on only the most necessary legislation, as promised, during sprint toward a recess by the end of the week.

“Wash your hands regularly. Do the best you can to social distance. I know we are currently, we’re not necessarily right now, well we’re not following the recommendations,” Republican Sen. Bo Watson told members of his Finance Committee.

The Republican leadership has said it’s focusing on “mission critical” legislation, including constitutionally required budget duties, so lawmakers disperse amid global closures to stem the virus’ spread, and come back as soon as June 1 to finish approving other legislative issues. READ MORE


Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey has her temperature taken by Scott Wyatt, left, of the Tennessee Department of Health as Piercey arrives for a news conference concerning the state’s response to the coronavirus Monday, March 16, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Gov. Lee asks all schools to close by Friday

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Monday asked schools to close, exhorted people to avoid crowded bars and said the state was seeking more ventilators as part of his administration’s efforts to confront the new coronavirus.

“We believe the more Tennesseans are reminded of their individual role, the more likely it is that we can slow the spread of this disease,” Lee told reporters. “Peoples’ lives are depending on it, their livelihoods are depending on it and I encourage Tennesseans to pray for our state.”

Lee said he was holding back from mandating school closings because every district may not have the same concerns. But he added he believed every school will eventually temporarily close by the end of the week. READ MORE


 

April 6 earliest return for SCS students

Shelby County Schools Supt. Joris Ray now says the district is “planning a return date for students no earlier than Monday, April 6.”

The announcement made via the SCS Twitter account also noted that, “All other District updates and guidance issued over the past week still apply.”
The decision extends the already extended Spring Break, which called for students to return on March 30.
Earlier, the SCS board had issued a statement, which, in part, read:
“…the District is ensuring salaried and hourly school-based employees do not experience a loss in pay during the school closure period. However, many other services and supports can help our local citizens while we work to navigate through this crisis. We thank those officials and leaders who have been responsive to the public’s needs and urge those who have not yet taken action to do so as soon as possible.”
—–

Diocese of Memphis’ updated response

The area’s public celebration of the Holy Eucharist has been cancelled in acknowledgement that “the current threat of the  coronavirus has made it dangerous for many people, especially the elderly, to attend Holy Mass on Sunday,” according to word from the Office of the Bishop Diocese of Memphis.

The decree from Bishop David P. Talley said the decision was made “with the health and safety of God’s children, families, teachers, employees, parishioners and neighbors being of the utmost importance to us across West Tennessee.”

The directive is effective immediately and to remain in place until further notice. “I also instruct pastors to suspend celebration of all public masses until further notice,” Talley’s notice said.

Priests in the diocese are celebrating Mass without a congregation “for all of the faithful of Memphis and the entire church,” Talley said.

Limited action for Tennessee General Assembly

All remaining legislative business of the Tennessee General Assembly will be limited to “fulfilling our constitutional requirement of passing a balanced budget, and any associated actions that will ensure Tennessee can keep its doors open.”

Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Speaker Cameron Sexton made that announcement in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

“The latest guidance from both the CDC and Department of Health requires us to take unprecedented action,” the trio said in the statement. “Passing an amended budget now and recessing will allow the General Assembly to focus on an immediate plan of action, while still determining needs down the road.

“This pathway forward should only be reserved for extraordinary circumstances. We will continue operating out of an abundance of caution and take additional action if it becomes necessary.”

According the released statement the approach being taken accounts for “the unique public health challenges this complex virus presents, as well as the economic disruption likely to occur as a result of its spread.”

Update from the mayor’s office (March 16)

The leadership of all local hospitals and the Shelby County Health Department were convened Monday morning (March 16) to discuss “our plans moving forward to ensure we’re all working together and all lines of communication are open,” said Mayor Jim Strickland in a coronavirus (COVID-19) update.

There also was a called meeting with Memphis Tourism, Memphis Restaurant Association, and the Metropolitan Memphis Hotel Lodging Association, Strickland said, noting that, “They are in the process of developing protocols, but many restaurants are already following CDC guidelines of social distancing and other recommendations. ”

Meanwhile, the administration is continue to encourage to-go orders and support for local restaurants and their staffs.

“To help with this, we have decided to provide on-street parking relief exclusively for food delivery vehicles at various restaurant locations Downtown and Midtown where parking meters are installed,” Strickland said in the update.

“Until further notice, we are relaxing enforcement at metered parking spaces, allowing on-street parking at no charge in front of restaurants. Please note that all restricted parking areas will remain in effect during this time to ensure public safety.

On Sunday, it was announced that starting Wednesday (March 18th), libraries and community centers will be closed until further notice.

“Parks and Golf courses will remain open, and parks will have additional programming for children,” according to the announcement. “The closing of our community centers will not affect food delivery to SCS students while their schools are closed.”

The daily briefing on the public health emergency also yielded this Shelby County Health Department update on quarantine numbers:

  • 123 people are currently under quarantine;
  • 18 tests pending;
  • Two positive tests; 11 cleared.

(For more information, visit Shelby County Health Department COVID-19. Call Center, 833-943-1658.)

 

NCRM shifts to close

The National Civil Rights Museum will temporarily CLOSE to the public beginning Tuesday, March 17 until further notice in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We recognize that this situation is extremely fluid and feel it necessary to halt operations to ensure the safety of our employees and guests,” museum officials said in released statement.

A casualty of closure will be the museum’s annual April 4th commemorative service. All public events and programming are cancelled during the closure.

As are others, museum officials point to health officials for more information regarding the public health emergency(COVID-19).

For Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, visit https://bit.ly/2WgXhXL

Follow the Shelby County Health Department: https://bit.ly/2WlRO1R

The count in Tennessee

As of Sunday, Tennessee had 39 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Seventeen cases were in Davidson County, 14 were in Williamson County and two were in Shelby County. Single cases have been found in Campbell, Hamilton, Jefferson, Knox, Rutherford and Sullivan counties.

Oh brother(s)!

Thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and packs of antibacterial wipes and medical masks have been donated after a failed attempt by two Tennessee brothers to resell them for profit during the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.

Boxes were taken Sunday from a storage unit and the home of Matt Colvin of Hixson, Tennessee, news outlets reported. The items, including 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer, were donated to a local church and some supplies will head to Kentucky where Colvin had cleared store shelves.

Read more: https://apnews.com/b378d798c1d3a9a8e652a7235aff512e

Mass gatherings, public events

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.

Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populationshand hygiene, and social distancing.  When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.

The CDC recommendation does not apply to the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses. Its made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.

The CDC emphasized that its recommendation is not intended to supersede the advice of local public health officials.

A small biz coping

At Mot & Ed’s Restaurant in Midtown, Edna Banks-Hawkins partners with her mother, Martel Weaver Taylor. (Taylor’s nickname is “Mot.”)

“Mother expressed some concern about the virus earlier in the week,” said Banks-Hawkins last Friday. “I just told her not to be overly concerned about it. We are closed Sunday and Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday, we had the usual number of patrons. But the end of the week, we had less than half of our normal traffic, and at times, about a fourth of the number of customers we usually see.”

The staff wiped down the entire dining area and kitchen with disinfectant and bleach. And like other restauranteurs, gloves and masks, along with cleaning supplies, were bought in bulk.

“I bought 96 rolls of toilet paper, also,” said Banks-Hawkins. “At Cosco’s, I got every thing I could – 7,000 Clorox wipes. It was incredible. Everything was gone. And I’m just thinking we may need to fill our deep-freezer at home. We just aren’t sure about this virus.

“We are cleaning and wiping down every table when each guest leaves,” she said.

“We are going to do everything we can to maintain our business, and we pray that things improve. Next week, I’m going to make chili, beef stew and chicken’n dumplings. We’re just going to pray and hope for the best.”

U of M extends spring break to March 23 

The University of Memphis extended its spring break, with classes scheduled to resume March 23. According to an email sent by U of M president M. David Rudd, professors at the university will be able to transition their students into remote learning for the rest of the semester.

Extended Spring Break at LOC

At LeMoyne-Owen College, Friday was to have been the last day of classes before Spring Break. Instead, the South Memphis campus mostly was empty after administrators directed students to start the break earlier in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dasia Pettigrew was a lone figure walking across campus at noon Friday. “I just got out to come and pick up my work/study check,” she said. “Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell)

Spring Break at LOC now has been extended throughout March. On the college’s website is a video of Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean, who offers updates on the virus, along with some posted information regarding the school’s efforts to keep students and staff safe.

The administration will maintain a work schedule through the month’s end.

 

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The U.S. House of Representatives early Saturday passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

According to Congressman Steve Cohen’s office, the measure “provides paid leave, establishes free testing, supports strong unemployment benefits, expands food assistance for vulnerable children and families, and increases funding for Medicaid programs across the country. It also contains tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses affected by the relief measures.”

Cohen was among the 363 representatives to embrace the emergency measure; 40 members voted “no” on the legislation, which now is up for Senate consideration. President Donald Trump signaled by tweet that the measure is in line with the administration’s desires.

Here is Cohen’s post-vote statement:

“We must urgently and thoughtfully respond to this pandemic. This virus is deadly and it needs to be treated with the whole-of-government approach put in effect by this necessary measure. I urge everyone to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, including regularly washing hands, staying home when you’re sick and avoiding large crowds. This legislation provides essential support to ensure all Americans can take necessary precautionary steps to combat this disease.” 

Unnecessary emergency department visits

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has announced additional precautions aimed at “better protecting the safety of its patients, Associates and others in our community.”

Actions include:

  • Asking those concerned about whether they may have been exposed to the Coronavirus to avoid emergency departments unless you need hospital care;
  • Enacting new screening procedures at all its facilities; travel history, COVID-19 exposure, fever and/or respiratory illness;
  • Limiting access points to its hospitals;
  • Restricting the number of visitors to two per patient. Children under 12 will not be allowed to visit at this time;
  • Temporarily suspending all on-site, non-Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare meetings, events and tours of facilities;
  • Posting signs at clinic entrances with instructions for patients with fever or symptoms of respiratory infection to alert staff so appropriate precautions can be implemented;
  • Encouraging individuals to visit Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare COVID-19 website for latest information.

“Our experts have been actively preparing for COVID-19, routinely assessing and preparing in advance for all potential health risks,” said Michael Ugwueke, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. “To ensure that we are providing the best care to patients who need it, we want to limit unnecessary visits to the emergency department for non-urgent medical needs.”

The hospital’s community health announcement also included this notation:

“It is important to understand that unlike influenza, there is no treatment for COVID-19. Most people with COVID-19 will not be hospitalized but will recover at home. CDC is encouraging patients with mild respiratory illness to stay home.

“Methodist continually evaluates its processes to best meet the needs of our patients, and we are collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and local and state Health Departments. Additional precautions will be put into place as needed.”

From the Shelby County Schools Board

The commissioners on the Shelby County Schools Board have issued a joint statement on the COVID-19 crises. In part it reads:

“Keeping in mind the high number of disadvantaged families and the level of poverty in our community, we are especially appreciative of the District’s plan to provide meals to students. Equally important, the District is ensuring salaried and hourly school-based employees do not experience a loss in pay during the school closure period. However, many other services and supports can help our local citizens while we work to navigate through this crisis. We thank those officials and leaders who have been responsive to the public’s needs and urge those who have not yet taken action to do so as soon as possible.”

No Parade

This is no time for a parade. That’s the decision of Beale Street Merchants and Beale Street Management regarding the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade that was set for Saturday (March 14).

Word of the postponement came via a media release that noted Beale Street continues to support the City’s efforts to prevent the spread of illness in wake of the coronavirus.

The message also included this notation:

“…we want to reiterate that Beale Street is OPEN, Downtown Memphis is OPEN, and we are still welcoming all visitors and guests! (For the time being, we will just be welcoming you with an elbow bump or jazz hands, rather than a handshake or hug!” – Beale Street Merchants/Beale Street Management

Won’t play ball

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletics Association (TSSAA) has decided to put the state tournaments on hold.

“We are suspending the remainder of the girls’ state tournament and next week’s boys’ state tournament,” the TSSAA announced on its website. “Whether we will be able to reschedule these events will depend on the length of the suspension and the availability of facilities. TSSAA tournaments suspended 

ZOO-ming in

Memphis Zoo officials report that while they do not — at this time — anticipate any closures or interruptions to programming due to coronavirus restrict, they are taking extra measures to help keep people healthy.

That involves following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and recommendations for businesses by encouraging staff and guests to stay home if unwell, emphasizing respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene and routinely cleaning all surfaces.

As for the animals, the Memphis Zoo release says, “Right now, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted to animals. It’s also important to note that the CDC has not received any reports of animals in human care becoming sick with COVID-19.

“Currently our animals are healthy and our animal care staff continues to monitor them closely.”

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