Week That Was: Coronavirus Hot Spots, Graduations, and Clean Water 

Coronavirus touched everything from graduations to clean water.

click to enlarge Map shows coronavirus concentration, colleges seek alternative graduation plans, groups want to postpone water permits
  • Map shows coronavirus concentration, colleges seek alternative graduation plans, groups want to postpone water permits

Commencement Canceled
The coronavirus pandemic has upended all parts of life and halted plans here, around the country, and across the globe — from weddings to funerals to long-awaited graduation ceremonies.

Thus, colleges in the Memphis area have begun looking at alternative ways to celebrate their seniors. Those alternatives include virtual ceremonies, in-person ceremonies at a later date, or combined spring 2021 ceremonies.

Travel Distance
Travel distance in Shelby County was among the top in the country on Friday, according to a report by The New York Times.

Using anonymous cell phone data from 15 million people, The Times released a report on Thursday morning showing travel patterns in every county in the country.

On Friday, March 27th, residents of Shelby County traveled an average of 2.5 miles (see below). It’s 12th on the list of average travel distances in counties with more than 500,000 residents. Florida had the most counties listed, followed by Utah, California, and Oklahoma.

Call 311
What can you do if you see someone violating the city’s Safer at Home order?

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Memphians can call 311 to report violations of the order.

Dan Springer, chief media affairs officer for the city, confirmed that this order also applies to private gatherings at residences. If a neighbor witnesses a gathering or disregard of social distancing guidelines, they can call 311, and Memphis Police Officers or other city employees will respond.

Coronavirus Hot Spots
New data from the Shelby County Health Department shows the county's highest concentrations of coronavirus are in Cordova, East Memphis, and South Memphis.

The ZIP codes with the highest coronavirus are 38106, 38108, 38028, 38119, 38120, and 38109 — all with between 28 and 40 cases each. Downtown and Midtown ZIP codes have between 12 and 20 cases.

Mental Health Help
Shelby County employees will now have access to unlimited virtual counseling services, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced last week.

The expansion of employee benefits will allow all county employees to receive video, phone, or in-person counseling for free, regardless of if employees are insured through the county.

Art Funds
ArtsMemphis is allocating $50,000 to provide funding to artists most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.

The flexible funding will be used to help in recovering from lost income due to canceled events, job layoff, or furlough. Applications are being accepted from self-employed artists of all arts disciplines as well as artists employed or contracted by nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Shelby County.

Artists may request up to $500 to compensate for work that was scheduled or contracted and canceled or lost. The fund is not available to compensate for potential future loss of business or income.

Essential Service
With a smaller staff and a slightly different set of operating procedures, CHOICES, one of two clinics in the city that performs abortions, is still open and providing services.

Katy Leopard, assistant director of CHOICES, said the clinic’s call volume has been up, some staff members are working from home, and the clinic has had to decrease the number of patients it sees, but services will continue. CHOICES’ main focus, she said, has been to provide the essential services patients need, while ensuring that staff and patients remain safe and healthy.

Job Loss

The Memphis metro area could lose around 20 percent of all jobs due to the coronavirus, according to a new report from the Brookings Institute.

The report analyzed metros from across the country, predicting which ones would be hardest hit by the pandemic. Not all areas will be hit the same, according to the think tank. Those with concentrated energy sectors like mining, oil, and gas will likely be hardest hit. Hit hard, too, will be metros with concentrations of transportation, employment services, travel arrangements, and tourism (like Memphis).

Coronavirus Projections
About 1,067 Tennesseans will die from coronavirus.

Tennessee won’t run short of hospital beds or ICU beds during the coronavirus pandemic, and the state can expect to see 26 deaths per day until a peak of 35 deaths in one day on April 26th.

Those are projections released late last week by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.

Park Access
The city began limiting access to public parks last week. This comes as hundreds of people have been flocking to city parks as the temperatures rise in the city. Last week, many noticed the large crowds of park-goers and took to social media to express concern.

Strickland moved to limit the number of people in parks, by restricting the number of cars allowed in parks. To aid this effort, Riverside Drive and “as many roads in and around parks that the fire marshal will let me" will close.

Clean Water
Clean-water advocacy groups are asking state officials to postpone new water permits until after coronavirus orders have been lifted here to ensure the public has a say on projects that affect the "lives and lands of Tennesseans."

State officials can now legally hold meetings electronically. But members of the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) and more say public input is vital to decisions that allow permits under the federal Clean Water Act. These permits include permissions to pollute or to alter a stream, river, lake, or wetland.

The request was formalized in a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and members of his administration Monday.

Maintaining Access
Though understanding the need for the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) to reduce its service amid the spread of coronavirus, a spokesperson for the Memphis Bus Riders Union (MBRU) still worries how the cuts will limit people’s access to necessary locations in the city.

MATA announced late last month that it would be reducing its service in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the community and the number of businesses across the city that cannot currently operate, due to orders by the mayors of Shelby County and Memphis.

Justin Davis, secretary of the Memphis Bus Riders’ Union, said the group understands MATA’s need to adjust its service hours and coverage for public health reasons, but wants to ensure people are still able to access the services they need.

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