Fly-By: The Year That Was 

The virus dominated news in 2020, and Memphis (finally) understood that Black Lives Matter.


University of Memphis increased its minimum wage to $13.

State lawmakers filed bills against refugee resettlement, for chemical castration of some sex offenders, and against transgender student athletes.

The state Senate voted to allow private adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee later signed the bill into law.

Debate began for the possible removal of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the State Capitol Building.

Southland Casino Racing opened its book for sports betting.


The Shelby County Health Department debunked a rumor that someone at 201 Poplar had coronavirus.

A Tennessee house committee reviewed a bill that would have labeled CNN and The Washington Post as "fake news."

Gov. Bill Lee pushed to make Tennessee a constitutional gun carry state.

No COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Shelby County, but health officials monitored 20 people who recently returned from China.


The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) planned to remove toxic coal ash from the Allen Fossil Plant.

The first Shelby County resident tested positive for coronavirus; 70 were quarantined.

Alisa Haushalter, director of the health department, said there was no immediate risk to the general public from COVID-19.

Governor Lee declared a state of emergency Thursday, March 12th.

A second case of coronavirus was confirmed here.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) suspended service cutoffs.

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Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland ordered libraries and community centers closed and stopped issuing event permits.

State lawmakers cut short the 2020 legislative session.

A third case of COVID-19 was confirmed here.

A fourth case was reported.

Ten cases of COVID-19 were reported.

A drive-through testing site was established at Tiger Lane.

Strickland issued a state of emergency and ordered restaurant dining rooms to be closed.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris issued a state of emergency.

Memphis in May (MIM) halted 2020 events.

COVID-19 cases rose to 84.

Strickland issued the Safer at Home Initiative.

Shelby County and each of the county's seven municipalities issued Stay at Home orders.

COVID-19 cases rose to 1,432.


The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) reduced service to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Tennessee Supreme Court directed judges to reduce jail populations.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich released some incarcerated at the Shelby County Jail and dismissed hundreds of cases.

Memphis in May announced new fall dates for the 2020 festival.

Memphis nonprofit funding was down $32 million on COVID-19 concerns.

A federal district court blocked Governor Lee's attempt to ban abortion because of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 cases totaled 1,807. Deaths totaled 38.


Phase I of the Back to Business plan began.

Salons, barbershops, and gyms were allowed to reopen.

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Beale Street reopened.

Southland Casino Gaming and Horseshoe Tunica reopened.

Graceland reopened.

Phase II of the Back to Business plan began.

The final concept for Tom Lee Park's new design was unveiled.

COVID-19 cases totaled 3,877. Deaths totaled 88.


A protest in response to the recent deaths of Black people in America closed Union Avenue.

Gov. Lee authorized the Tennessee National Guard to respond to protests.

A nightly curfew in Memphis began to calm protests related to the police killing of George Floyd.

The nightly curfew was lifted.

A move to Phase III of the Back to Business plan was paused.

An all-white House committee voted to keep the bust of slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee State Capitol.

Strickland said he was opposed to defunding the police department.

Memphis in May was canceled.

A video of Germantown businessman Lloyd Crawford went viral as the man was filmed telling a man holding a Black Lives Matter poster he was not welcome in the city.

COVID-19 cases rose to 6,119. Deaths totaled 133.


Officials announced a new radio station, WYXR 91.7, would air in the fall.

Bars were ordered closed. Restaurants were ordered closed by 10 p.m.

The State Capitol Commission voted to move the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee State Capitol building.

The Cooper-Young Festival was canceled.

The city council renamed a stretch of Poplar Avenue to Black Lives Matter Avenue.

Shelby County Schools announced fall classes would be all virtual.

COVID-19 cases rose to 20,797. Deaths totaled 275.


Operation LeGend brought 40 federal agents to Memphis to reduce the city's violent crime rate.

State lawmakers passed bills to crack down on protesters.

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The $200-million project to transform the Mid-South Fairgrounds into a youth sports destination was branded as Liberty Park.

COVID-19 cases rose to 26,903. Deaths totaled 370.


Five businesses were temporarily closed on COVID-19 violations.

A new report said Memphis needed 2,800 police officers, about 700 more than it had at the time.

The "Father of Identity Theft" was sentenced for identity theft.

Memphis in May reported it lost $1.8 million in 2020, the worst financial year in the festival's 44 years.

A new, 30- to 45-story tower was proposed for the Pinch District in a $180 million project that would re-shape the city's skyline.

COVID-19 cases totaled 31,771. Deaths totaled 475.


Veteran television journalist Mike Matthews announced his retirement.

The health department did not cancel Halloween events but did not recommend them.

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The U.S. Department of Justice issued $2 million in grants to combat violent crime in Memphis.

Jennifer Oswalt announced she was leaving the Downtown Memphis Commission as president.

COVID-19 cases totaled 37,480. Deaths totaled 571.


Tennessee voters turned out in record numbers (more than 3 million) to cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election.

A federal judge sided with Tennessee in an ongoing water-rights case from Mississippi.

A council member filed an ethics complaint against another member for profane insults hurled during a meeting.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital researchers announced they may have figured out how the pandemic virus kills and how to stop it.

COVID-19 cases totaled 49,263. Deaths totaled 672.


Thanksgiving traffic at Memphis International Airport was cut in half.

City officials halted curbside recycling services as a quarter of the city's solid waste crews either had COVID-19 or were in quarantine.

Nine restaurants were closed on COVID-19 violations.

Ground was broken on the $60-million Tom Lee Park project.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery signed onto a Texas lawsuit to throw out millions of swing-state votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Only 15 ICU beds were available as hospitals strained under surging COVID-19 numbers.

COVID-19 cases totaled 59,387. Deaths totaled 727 (as of December 18th).

Visit the News Blog at for fuller versions of these stories and more local news.

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