Saturday, June 27, 2020

New Virus Cases Hit Near-Record Single-Day Spike

Posted By on Sat, Jun 27, 2020 at 10:15 AM


Test results reported Friday morning showed 365 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County. The results were second only to the single-day record of 385 new cases set earlier this month.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 rose slightly to 7.6 percent on all test results.

The Shelby County Health Department reported 2,844 tests were given. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 9,210. The death toll rose by 3 and is now 181 in Shelby County.

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Friday, June 26, 2020

Pink Palace Crafts Fair 2020 Canceled Due to COVID-19

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 5:00 PM

PINK PALACE MUSEUM
  • Pink Palace Museum

The Friends of the Pink Palace Museum, host of what would have been the 48th annual Pink Palace Crafts Fair, announced Friday, June 26th, that they would cancel this year’s Crafts Fair over concerns about the coronavirus.


“I am so disappointed that we had to cancel the fair due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the concern with holding large events,” said Pam Dickey, chairman of the Pink Palace Crafts Fair, in a statement. "The Friends of the Pink Palace are the largest donor to the Pink Palace Museum system. Their support helps provide free admission and programs to Title 1 students through the Open Doors/ Open Minds program."


The Crafts Fair, an autumn celebration of crafters, makers, and artisans, was originally scheduled to be held Friday, September 25th, through Sunday, September 27th, at Audubon Park.

From its start in 1973 on the lawn of the Pink Palace Museum with roughly 30 craftsmen to last year’s festival, which hosted more than 200 craftspeople, the Pink Palace Crafts Fair has a long history as a Friends of the Pink Palace fundraiser and a Memphis fall staple.

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Clergy Members ‘Upset’ by Mayor’s Claim of Consensus on Police Reform

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 2:58 PM

Michael Rallings with crowd during protest - BRANDON DILL
  • Brandon Dill
  • Michael Rallings with crowd during protest

A group of black clergy members said they were “surprised and upset” by city officials’ Thursday press conference in which they laid out steps to reform the Memphis Police Department (MPD).


Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland told the public Thursday that over the past four weeks his administration has been meeting with clergy members and other concerned citizens to discuss ways to improve MPD.


City officials announced that the group has reached a consensus around five reforms, which include:


• MPD updated its policies to include the sentiment of “8 Can’t Wait”


• Made improvements to the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB), including enhancing communication with the public, providing training for CLERB members and staff, and reviewing the request for members to have subpoena powers


• Started posting board opportunities on the city website


• Began discussions with the Memphis Police Association to look for opportunities to strengthen language in the memoranda of understanding between the city and association to ensure that officers will be held accountable when using excessive force


• Looking to partner with community activists to improve implicit bias, cultural awareness, and cultural diversity training for MPD officers


However, a number of clergy members who participated in the meetings said in a statement Friday that a consensus had not been reached. They also called meetings with officials “frustrating” and “disappointing.”


“As African-American clergy who participated in the meetings, we found the discussions to be frustrating and disappointing overall, characterized largely by those who represent the power structures of Memphis claiming that the processes in place are sufficient,” the statement reads.

“The five reforms presented to us June 24th, the date of the last meeting, stopped far short of the substantive changes we had requested in calling for a reimagined police department. Though the administration couched these reforms as an agreement, we did not, in fact, agree to them. Rather, they demonstrated to us the administration’s lack of courage and appetite for making Memphis truly more equitable for all.”


The statement is signed by Gina Stewart, Revs. Stacy Spencer, Keith Norman, Melvin Watkins, Earle Fisher, J. Lawrence Turner, and Chris Davis, as well as Bishops Ed Stephens Jr. and Linwood Dillard.


The clergy members also noted that none of those who were involved in the meetings were invited to Thursday’s press conference and were not aware that it was taking place.

“Unfortunately, this typifies the tepid spirit of our recent interactions with the administration,” the clergy members said. “What was dressed up for the public yesterday as reform was, in our opinion, reinforcement of the status quo. We continue to be open to taking part in the pursuit of meaningful police reform in Memphis, which people in the streets and throughout the city are clamoring for. But we expect substantive dialogue, genuine agreement, and concrete steps toward major change in the way police interact with the residents of our city.”

Turner, the pastor at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, said he has some concerns and reservations about the five reforms announced yesterday. He also says they “aren’t enough.”

Specifically, Turner said he’s concerned about the statements officials made related to the “8 Can’t Wait” policies. He questions whether or not MPD is in “complete alignment” with the policies.

For example, MPD director Michael Rallings said Thursday that the department has banned chokeholds, but Turner said that the topic was a “source of considerable conversation” during the meetings with officials.

“The way it was discussed in our meetings is as if this is something MPD is particularly open to outright banning,” he said. “If they were really challenged on all the ‘8 Can’t Wait’ policies, I don’t really think that they could really produce proof that they align with all eight; maybe five at best.

Turner also said there needs to be more clarity around CLERB reforms, as well as more empowerment for the board.

“CLERB needs more than more dollars for marketing and communication,” he said. “It needs to be empowered and taken seriously.”

The mayor mentioned Thursday that reviewing CLERB’s subpoena power would be added to the city’s legislative agenda, but Turner says it needs to be a “top priority.”

Ultimately, Turner said the city and county need to take a more comprehensive look at reforming policing “in a way that is reflective of Memphis’ citizenry.” This process, if done right, should take at least six to 12 months, he said. 


“Yesterday, it was made to seem like we had completed the meetings, but the conversation is not over,” Turner said. “Let’s make a real investment in reimagining policing in Memphis and Shelby County."


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New Virus Cases Rise by 157

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 10:22 AM


Test results reported Friday morning showed 157 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 remains at 7.5 percent on all test results.

The Shelby County Health Department reported 1,482 tests were given. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 8,845. The death toll rose by two and is now 178 in Shelby County.

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Rhodes College and Baptist Announce COVID-19 Prevention Partnership

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 1:31 PM

PHOTO COURTESY RHODES COLLEGE
  • Photo courtesy Rhodes College

Running a college is a tough business at the best of times. But in the midst of a global pandemic, ensuring the health and safety of all students is of paramount importance both on and off school grounds. With that in mind, Rhodes College is pursuing a partnership with Baptist Memorial Health Care to create a thorough prevention plan for the 2020-21 school year.


Baptist will assist Rhodes with developing and implementing a safety protocol, which will have five key areas of focus: prevention, symptom monitoring, testing, care and tracing, and a resource center.


“As we began planning for the fall semester, our planning committees quickly identified the need for additional healthcare resources,” says Rhodes College president Marjorie Hass. “This relationship with Baptist will provide our campus with resources normally found at a large research university with an academic medical center. Most importantly, our students, faculty, and staff will be supported and cared for by physicians and providers from one of the nation’s top integrated healthcare networks.”


Leading the charge on Baptist’s end will be Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, co-director of Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis’ infection prevention program and a Rhodes alumnus. “This is a wonderful opportunity to help one of the country’s finest institutions welcome students, faculty, and staff back to campus safely,” he says. “We feel a tremendous responsibility to help our community weather the COVID-19 pandemic. This partnership is a natural extension of the tremendous investment we have made into educating, treating and protecting people from COVID-19, and we are excited to help Rhodes get back to educating its students.”


Through the partnership, Baptist will provide regular symptom monitoring that includes contact tracing and contingencies for a community occurrence of COVID-19. A virtual care clinic for positive cases will also be created in conjunction with the Rhodes Student Health Clinic. All returning students, faculty, and staff will be tested prior to the Fall and Spring semesters.


The hospital system will also advise Rhodes on procuring the necessary personal protective equipment and best sanitation practices for public areas, in addition to other services. If proper safety conditions are met, Rhodes plans to resume in-person classes in August.

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Officials Outline Steps Toward Police Reform

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 12:18 PM

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City officials laid out steps to reform the Memphis Police Department Thursday, June 25th, assuring the community that it is committed to change.


Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said his administration has been meeting with clergy and other community leaders over the past four weeks to discuss ways to improve the Memphis Police Department (MPD).


Alex Smith, chief human resource officer for the city, said the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement have led city officials to “continue to push further to ensure that Black lives matter.”


“As we have met with clergy and concerned Memphians, we understand that there’s a strong desire for change to policing in Memphis,” Smith said. “And as an administration, we agree that change must happen.”


As a result of the meetings, Smith said the city has identified “swift and immediate action that we can take to improve outcomes for MPD and the citizens that we serve.”


Those actions include:


• MPD updated its policies to include the sentiment of “8 Can’t Wait”


• Made improvements to the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB), including enhancing communication with the public, providing training for CLERB members and staff, and reviewing the request for members to have subpoena powers


• Started posting board opportunities on the city website


• Began discussions with the Memphis Police Association to look for opportunities to strengthen language in the memoranda of understanding between the city and association to ensure that officers will be held accountable when using excessive force


• Looking to partner with community activists to improve implicit bias, cultural awareness, and cultural diversity training for MPD officers


“We know this is just the beginning,” Smith said. “It’s the beginning of a longer journey, but we are committed to change, committed to Memphis, and committed to seeing this through.”


MPD director Michael Rallings said he understands the frustration that citizens are feeling and realizes “the importance of transparency and accountability as we reform law enforcement nationwide.” He continued saying that he “believes in reimagining law enforcement.”


“We are committed to making changes that will aid in building trust among citizens and among law enforcement,” Rallings said. “We have been called upon to follow the ‘8 Can’t Wait.’ Many have heard about it and we actually started reviewing ‘8 Can’t Wait’ in 2016 long before this became an issue.”


Regarding the “8 Can’t Wait” policies, Rallings said the department already bans chokeholds, requires de-escalation, requires warning before shooting, follows a use-of-force continuum, does comprehensive reporting on its use of force, and exhausts all alternatives before shooting. Additionally, the department recently updated its policies to require officers to intervene and report if another officer is using excessive force.


MPD also bans shooting from vehicles, another “8 Can’t Wait” policy. However, Rallings said it is allowed when deadly force is authorized.


After requests from the community, Rallings said MPD has also banned no-knock warrants.


“I just want to assure and reassure Memphians that we are listening and we are moving forward,” Rallings said. “We cannot stand idle and we must continue to work together.”


Strickland said the discussion and work around police reform “is not over” and that the city will “continue to work every day to do better and to be better.”


“We’ve made an intentional decision to go through all our policies and procedures to see where we can improve,” Strickland said. “Second, we will create some means to broaden the discussion in terms of people and topics so that more people can contribute with their ideas and on the topics which they want to be heard.”


Strickland said the city will solidify plans for further discussion in the next week.


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Virus Death Toll Rises By Nine

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 10:37 AM


Test results reported Thursday morning showed 294 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 rose slightly from 7.4 percent to 7.5 percent on all test results.

The Shelby County Health Department reported 2,963 tests were given. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 8,688. The death toll rose by nine and is now 176 in Shelby County.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Navigating Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Your Questions Asked and Answered.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 1:15 PM

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It’s been more than three months since the city and county mayors declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus, and we’re still figuring out how to live through this global pandemic.

While the spread of the virus slowed enough in May for local officials to begin reopening businesses, a recent spike in cases and hospitalizations delayed a move into the next reopening phase. On Saturday, the Shelby County Health Department reported the highest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases.

Over the last several weeks, the Memphis Media Collaborative (Chalkbeat Tennessee, High Ground News, the Memphis Flyer, and MLK50: Justice Through Journalism) sent a COVID-19 information needs survey by text message to residents across Memphis.

Dozens of you responded, with questions about everything from summer school to bill payment assistance to coworkers who won’t practice social distancing.

Below are answers to some of your questions and links to resources you may need.

Coronavirus Protections for Customers and Employees

As businesses reopen, are there any assurances that workers will wear masks and properly social distance?

Are there county guidelines that mandate this? Yes. Is enforcement robust? No.

The Shelby County Health Department’s latest health directive outlines the specific measures businesses must take to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

For example, employers must make sure customers maintain six feet of distance and that employees who work with the public wear masks that cover the nose and the mouth.

If you notice a business that isn’t following these guidelines, there are three ways to file a complaint: call the Shelby County Mayor’s Action Line at  901-222-2300; call the Shelby County Health Department’s COVID-19 Hotline at 833-943-1658 or email shelbytnhealth@shelbycountytn.gov.

You can remain anonymous, but the more details you can provide, the better.

I am unsure how my employer is going to follow socially distant guidelines in the workplace. What are my rights if I don’t feel protected as I return to work?


Employers are required by federal law to provide a safe working environment. Under the county health department’s COVID-19 guidelines that includes providing workers with face coverings, performing temperature and health screenings, allowing for social distancing at the workplace and providing places for workers to wash their hands and/or supplying hand sanitizer.

Whether employees can successfully petition bosses to implement and enforce these mandatory precautions or go further than the law requires is a different matter.

If you’re represented by a labor union, such as the Kroger warehouse workers represented by the Teamsters, the union can take workers’ concerns to management, which could protect individual employees from retaliation.

If you’re not represented by a union – and most employees in the Memphis area aren’t – you can file a complaint with the Shelby County Health Department, which investigates workplace safety issues. You can also file a complaint with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but TOSHA is unlikely to investigate if the complaint does not allege an immediate risk.

The more specific your complaint is, the better. You can remain anonymous, but doing so may limit TOSHA’s ability to follow up. To file a complaint, call the Memphis TOSHA office at 901-543-7259 or submit a complaint online here.

It’s fine to file a report both with the state and the county, which can be reached via the Shelby County Mayor’s Action Line at  901-222-2300, the Shelby County Health Department’s COVID-19 Hotline at 833-943-1658 or by email at shelbytnhealth@shelbycountytn.gov.

– MLK50: Justice Through Journalism


Children and Education

What will happen over the summer? Will there be summer school and in-person camps?

Memphis summer learning will be online and smaller than usual this year.

Memphis students who did not earn passing grades before buildings closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic will have the opportunity to advance to the next grade, through online summer school that also will provide them laptops and hotspots for internet access. Online classes are scheduled for June 8th through July 16th.

This year, the district plans to limit its summer learning academy to reading lessons for Kindergarten and first grade students. The district had hoped to expand the academy to all elementary school students and eighth-grade students transitioning to high school, but the county commission declined the district’s request to fund it.

Summer camps’ plans are a bit of a mish-mash. Many camps are open and operating under COVID-19 protocols, with daily temperature checks for campers, no parents past the doors, and in some cases, campers wearing masks. Other camps made the decision not to open this summer. In some cases, camps’ application windows have closed. Memphis Parent offers a Camp Guide here; calling camps individually may be the best way to learn how they are responding and if they are still accepting new campers.

Where can I find free meals for my child this summer?

To ramp up food distribution for children who need it this summer, Shelby County Schools is resuming meal preparation with help from the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South.

Shelby County Schools will resume food preparation starting July 1st and YMCA will help the district add new distribution sites and recruit volunteers to meet the heightened demand. You can go here to find the current food distribution site closest to you.

Families can also apply by June 29th for about $5.70 per child per day through the state's Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program.

How is Shelby County Schools preparing for the fall and the new school year? What will school look like?

There are still a lot of unknowns, but Shelby County Schools is endeavoring to give every student a laptop or tablet by November, with distribution starting in August.

District officials have said that instruction in the fall could be in-person, online, or a combination of both. More details are expected in early July after a community task force submits recommendations to Superintendent Joris Ray. Classes are scheduled to start Aug. 10th – though even that start date is tentative.

How could social distancing occur in crowded classrooms? Will masks be provided for students and staff?

The short answer is: no one knows yet.  The coronavirus has forced school districts across the nation to address a host of pandemic-related needs to ensure the safety of students and teachers when classes resume in the fall while also trying to address the loss of instructional time due to school closures this year.

Shelby County Schools officials gave a first look into some of the options being discussed during a budget presentation in May before county commissioners.

“For safety, we’re thinking about digital thermometers, PPEs or personal protective equipment, handwashing, sanitizing supplies, training,” said Toni Williams, finance director.

She noted that the needs change every day “as we’re learning more and more and becoming educated about how everyone is addressing this pandemic.”

– Chalkbeat



Reopening

What is the current time frame for reopening businesses in Memphis? What framework are the city and county using?


There is no set-in-stone time frame and the framework to advance is a colored-coded matrix that includes case predictions, capacity of our healthcare systems, and testing capabilities.

The plan is a three-phased approach with a minimum two-week wait before re-evaluating and moving to the next phase. Each category has specific metrics that get a green, yellow, or red rating. Some things can pass on yellow, some only on green. For example, hospital capacity is one category. It’s based on the percentage of ICU beds currently in-use. As long as capacity stays at 95% or lower, the category gets a passing score.  

Phase II started on May 18th. Officials have delayed Phase III twice. To move to Phase III, the metro area must have a flat or negative growth rate in new cases for the previous 14 days. The number of confirmed cases has risen since Phase II began. The Shelby County Health Department reported the highest single-day increase on June 20th with 385 new cases.

Find a full explanation, decision matrix, and the general recommendations for each phase here. Find the full list of rules for businesses and public spaces in each phase here.

What volunteer opportunities are available to help front line workers and families or individuals who are remaining isolated?

There are tons! Volunteer Odyssey says the best strategies are to 1) look around your neighborhood and 2) reach out to your favorite organization directly and ask what they need based on your needs.

Virtually every community group, business, and nonprofit in the city has big and small needs right now, too. There are monetary needs and needs for in-person volunteering, but there are plenty of opportunities that are low- or no-cost and can be done virtually. Find Volunteer Odyssey’s citywide list of high-priority needs here.

– High Ground News


Healthcare

What doctors and clinics are now accepting patients for non-coronavirus related health issues? Is elective surgery available again?

Generally, checking in with your healthcare provider is the best first step. Hospitals have begun certain elective procedures again, but it depends on the procedure and the particular doctor/clinic. Dentists are to be able to reopen for non-emergency appointments in Phase III, which has been pushed back.

Are homemade masks or bandanas adequate protection?

Wearing homemade masks can help stem the spread of coronavirus. They offer a barrier to viral droplets being released into the air by people who may be infected but asymptomatic. They do not provide the level of protection of CDC-approved N95 respirator masks but can be crucial in reducing infection levels by protecting family, friends, and the community from exposure. The CDC has in-depth information on face coverings and their benefits.

– The Memphis Flyer

Making Ends Meet

What other bill assistance programs or aid is available for unemployed workers during this time?

This is a hard one. There are a lot of programs or aid funds coming and going and a lot of existing programs are at capacity, but there are some trusted resources. Find MLGW’s residential resources page here. The Shelby County Community Services Agency offers utility, rent, prescription cost assistance to those who qualify. Click here or call 901-222-4200. LINC 2-1-1 has the most comprehensive database of assistance resources in the area. Access LINC here or dial 2-1-1 on any phone.

– High Ground News


I need to figure out how to keep my utility bill paid because I am out of work. What is MLGW’s policy right now? How will I be protected from a mounting bill?

During the pandemic, MLGW enacted their pandemic protection plan, temporarily suspending all disconnect notices; disconnects will resume on Aug. 3rd. Bills have continued to accrue while disconnections are suspended between April 3rd and Aug. 3rd. MLGW says it is unable to offer discounts or suspend billing, but have ensured users that they will work with them during the coronavirus pandemic. For more information check MLGW’s COVID resources page.

A number of community resources are offering utility assistance during this time. The Department of Human Services is providing emergency cash assistance; Shelby County’s Community Services Agency offers a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; the State of Tennessee is offering emergency cash assistance to those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19.

Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), Society of St. Vincent de Paul (901-722-4703 or 901-274-2137), Millington Crisis Center Ministry (901-872-4357), and United Way of the Mid-South’s COVID-19 Economic Relief Fund (888-709-0630) are providing direct economic relief to those affected by the pandemic.

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Emergency Financial Assistance program (901-874-7350) is providing utility and other assistance for active duty and retired military personnel, their widows, and spouses with power of attorney. The Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee is offering assistance for sickle cell patients.

– Memphis Flyer

For Seniors

How will I really know if it’s safe to start leaving my house again, especially if I am over 65?

This is a difficult question to answer. Ultimately this decision must be made by each individual (or family). Many health professionals believe that the virus will continue to spread through communities at some level until a vaccine is created, tested, and made available to the public. That might not happen for a year or more.

Shelby County updates its COVID-19 Health Directive frequently (including guidance specifically for individuals), based on the most recent data and input from experts at the Shelby County Health Department. Currently, the guidance is still to stay at home when possible, limit unnecessary activity, practice social distancing, and wear a mask whenever leaving the home.

Older adults continue to be at higher risk. The Centers for Disease Control has some information about specific precautions seniors can take.


Will programs for seniors at city community centers continue in some form? What is available to seniors to aid with physical, social, and mental health right now?

According to the Mayor’s Citizen’s Service Center (311), community and senior centers will begin opening in Phase III of the city’s reopening plan. The date for Phase III has not been announced yet. There is not any more information at this time about how programs will be phased in. Most senior centers are offering meals and other resources ‘to-go’ in the meantime.

The Aging Commission of the Mid-South provides information about other resources available for seniors;901-222-4111 or 866-836-6678

– High Ground News

Resource Hubs:

These organizations can connect many different people, needs, and services across multiple assistance categories.

LINC 2-1-1: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Access LINC here or dial 2-1-1 on any phone.

United Way’s Relief Call Center: Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at 1-888-709-0630. After hours intake form can be found here.

Regional One Health's One Health Connect: Find it here.

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Virus Case Count Rises by 191

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 11:12 AM


Test results reported Wednesday morning showed 191 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 dropped slightly from 7.4 percent to 7.3 percent on all test results.

The Shelby County Health Department reported 1,342 tests were given. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 8,394. The death toll rose by one and is now 166 in Shelby County.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Health Official: Virus Spikes Caused by Testing Surge, Delayed Lab Reports

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 2:05 PM

Dr. Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department during a recent briefing of the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force. - CITY OF MEMPHIS/FACEBOOK
  • City of Memphis/Facebook
  • Dr. Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department during a recent briefing of the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force.
Recent high rates of the coronavirus in Shelby County were “alarming“ to many, health officials said here Tuesday, but the jumps were likely caused by high testing days and lags in reporting from laboratories.

More than 380 new cases of the virus were reported Friday, easily setting the record for the highest number of new cases reported in Shelby County in one day. The figure was over 200 on Saturday but was down to 44 on Sunday. The surge in cases made some, like County Commissioner Tami Sawyer, wonder if the county too quickly loosened restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department, gave many reasons for the spikes during Tuesday’s briefing of the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force, but noted they “were alarming to many people.”

The state, for one, is now reporting probable cases of the virus. These cases include someone who has tested negative for the virus but who is connected to a known outbreak or virus cluster. The county is now beginning to report these probable cases in the overall number of new cases. There are now 16 probable cases of the virus here.

Extensive testing was done on June 15th and 14th, pushing the number of positive cases up, Haushalter said. Saturday’s high figure of new cases contained lab test results from 19 different days, she said, pushing the figure even higher.

Still, Haushalter said community transmission is happening and at a higher rate. The positivity rate needs to be under 10 percent, she said. The number pushed up over 11 percent over the weekend and has come back down since then.

Haushalter said the spikes in cases are not directly linked to the Memorial Day weekend holiday nor the protests against police brutality. She said people are simply out enjoying the warmer weather and are not wearing face masks. However, she did note an uptick of people wearing masks again.

For all of this, Haushalter said the county will remain in Phase II of the Back to Business plan “for the foreseeable future.” If the numbers continue to rise, the county runs the risk of returning to the more-strict Phase I of Back to Business but that’s not what task force members want, she said.

For now, the task force will focus on identifying clusters of new cases and addressing them. It’ll also work on emerging trends in the community that may serve as barriers to people not wearing masks or social distancing, Haushalter said. For example, she said someone may go to work sick if they worry they may get fired or could not pay their rent.

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Report: Tennesseans Showing More Signs of Anxiety, Depression

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 1:28 PM

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Tennesseans are showing more signs of anxiety and depression as the coronavirus pandemic continues, according to a recent report by a sociologist at East Tennessee State University.


The results are based on the most recent Tennessee Poll, an annual poll conducted by ETSU’s Applied Social Research Lab (ASRL), which is led by Kelly Foster.


The poll found that for the week of April 22nd through May 1st, 35 percent of respondents had symptoms of anxiety and 27 percent had symptoms of depressive disorder.

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More specifically, 50 percent of respondents reported trouble sleeping in the week prior to the poll, while 53 percent reported feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge that week. Forty-three percent felt lonely.


When thinking about the coronavirus, 18 percent of respondents reported having physical reactions, such as sweating, trouble breathing, or a pounding heart. This is similar to the national response to that question recently reported by the Pew Research Center, which showed 19 percent of respondents having physical reactions when thinking about the pandemic.


When these reactions occur more than half the days or nearly every day of the week, they are symptomatic of anxiety or depressive disorders, according to the CDC.


Even with a high number of participants reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, the polls showed that 65 percent of respondents felt hopeful about the future “occasionally or most of the time.” That’s 15 percent more than the national results compiled by Pew, in which 50 percent of respondents reported feeling hopeful about the future.

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The report also compiled mental health scores of respondents based on their answers to questions about sleeping, mood, physical symptoms, and hopefulness. The average score was 18.9 out of 24. The charts below show how that score varied among different demographics, political affiliations, and employment status.


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Read more of the report here.

Mental Health Grant

The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (TDMHSAS) received a $966,380 federal grant this week to support mental health needs during the pandemic.


“There are a lot of people out there, dealing with stress, anxiety, fear, and depression, who are hurting right now,” said Marie Williams, TDMHSAS commissioner. “ We want people to know that it’s OK to not feel OK right now and that help is available, and thanks to this grant, the department and our community providers will be able to help more people. We are grateful to our federal partners for this funding, and the department is committed to leveraging all available resources to support the needs of Tennesseans and the community providers who serve them.”


The grant is through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Crisis Counseling Training Program and will be used to provide outreach and support services in each of the state’s 95 counties.


Anyone who is experiencing a mental health crisis, should call the Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line at 855-274-7471. The hotline connects callers with trained crisis counselors who provide support and referrals to other community support. Find more information about available resources here.


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New Virus Case Count Drops

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2020 at 10:23 AM


Test results reported Monday showed 109 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County, a significant drop from the 210 new cases repotted Sunday.

The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 dropped slightly from 7.4 percent  to 7.3 percent on all test results.

The Shelby County Health Department reported 2,012 tests were given Monday. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 8,203. The death toll rose by two on Monday and is now 166 in Shelby County.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

COVID-19: Harris Prepared to Move Back to Phase I, But It Can Be Avoided

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 3:13 PM

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said he is prepared to tighten virus restrictions on the economy and gatherings but it can be avoided "if everyone will do their part."

Harris said in a Monday tweet that he was asked to return to Phase I of the Back to Business plan, the plan to reopen the economies of Shelby County and its cities. The request comes after days of record-high number of new cases throughout the county.

The request came from Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer. She said in a Monday letter to Harris, Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph, and Shelby County Health Department Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter that she was concerned about the rising numbers and requested a move back to Phase I or a modified Phase II.

"It is no secret that I felt we entered Phase II too soon and was even more concerned about us entering Phase III," Sawyer said in the letter. "It feels the transitions are prompted by the 'Back to Business' model and not the overall capacity of our county to be safe from COVID-19.

"Back to Business should not be at the expense of people’s health. The numbers we saw this weekend, from record new cases to hospitalizations, say to me that we have moved too fast."

The county and its municipalities headed into Phase II of Back to Business on May 18th. A week before that, the county's overall positivity rate was at it lowest, 4.5 percent. That average grew in the four weeks following: 5.6 percent, 6.8 percent, 7.8 percent, to 9.1 percent. For this, and other reasons, county officials have stalled twice on Phase III, the plan that would further reopen the area's economy.

Harris addressed all of this and Sawyer's request in his tweet Monday:


"There is probably no county in Tennessee (or, perhaps, our entire region) that has moved as slowly and as carefully as Memphis and Shelby County, and we are prepared to do even more," Harris said. "If necessary, we are prepared to even return to Phase I.

"However, if everyone will continue to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, we can avoid returning to Phase I. We are all in this together.”

In a later tweet about her request, Sawyer said, "a lawsuit from the people who got COVID-19 because the county didn’t take precaution? That would definitely be reasonable."

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New Virus Cases Rise by 210

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 11:22 AM


Test results reported Sunday showed 210 new cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County. The county's overall average positive rate for COVID-19 is 7.4 percent on all test results.

The Shelby County Health Department reported 2,097 tests were given Sunday. The total number of COVID-19 cases here stands at 8,094. The death toll is now 164 in Shelby County.

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Memphis in May Canceled for 2020

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 11:09 AM

Beale Street Music Festival at Tom Lee Park - MIM/FACEBOOK
  • MIM/Facebook
  • Beale Street Music Festival at Tom Lee Park

Memphis in May (MIM) has been canceled this year. Officials announced the move Thursday morning.

Here's the full statement from MIM:

Due to the continuing threat of COVID-19, in the interest of public safety and under advice from local health authorities, the planned 2020 Memphis in May events scheduled for September 30th through October 23rd are canceled.

The difficult decision was made based on information in consultation with local health officials who advised that it would not be reasonable to host festival events as planned in 2020.

Our board of directors met this morning and voted to cancel the 2020 events. The health and safety of our patrons and participants is always our top priority.

We are disappointed that we are unable to reset for the fall as planned and that Memphis in May now joins the growing list of outdoor festivals and events that have been forced to cancel.

“The annual Memphis in May is an important part of the cultural fabric of our city, but this pandemic has impacted large-scale public events worldwide and Memphis is no exception,” said James Holt, MIM president and CEO.

Ticket holders, teams, and registrants will be offered a full refund or can opt to use their tickets or entries for the 2021 festival events. Participants will receive an email early next week with specific information for their ticket or registration and can also visit memphisinmay.org for details.

We are pressing pause this year, for the first time in over four decades, but we plan to be back next May bigger and better than ever. Mark your calendars now for the 45th anniversary of Memphis in May.

2021 Memphis in May International Festival

Beale Street Music Festival: April 30-May 2, 2021

Salute to Ghana: May 1-31, 2021

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest: May 12-15, 2021

Great American River Run: May 29, 2021

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