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Mid-South coronavirus live updates: Clearing up confusion over who can open - and when - in the Mid-South

With more news coming in every hour about the coronavirus, this post will update you with the latest you need to know.
Credit: WATN

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus and cases are spreading around the Mid-South since the virus arrived in the United States in February.

At Local 24, our coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit our coronavirus section for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about COVID-19, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here.

We will continue to track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Memphis and the Mid-South on this page. Refresh often for new information


Clearing up confusion over who can open - and when - in the Mid-South

Before phase one of the Memphis and Shelby County 'Back to Business' plan begins Monday, there's additional confusion - and clarity - being ironed out Friday.

Shelby County's suburban communities posted they would allow the opening Wednesday, May 6th, of 'close contact' businesses such as hair and nail salons, barber shop, and spas. Leaders in those communities cited an amendment to an order by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowing those businesses to reopen. Such businesses in places like Germantown also posted on social media they would be opening next week.

However, Friday afternoon, a Gov. Lee spokesperson said the change applies only to the 89 counties without a health department, and that those Shelby County towns would still be under the 'Back to Business' plan, which doesn't allow those businesses to open until phase two - no earlier than the week of May 18th.

"We developed what we thought was a very responsive and robust plan that would be data driven at the local level," Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.

"I'm going to rely on the doctors to advise Memphis with respect to those establishments. Originally they said it was going to be in phase two," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

We are awaiting follow up comments from the municipalities and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.

Gov. Lee is also expected to outline a tweak to capacity in Shelby County places of worship.

Phase one starting Monday called those places of worship to be at 25% capacity and those with the Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force urged clergy to offer virtual services for the time being as a precaution.

"That's where we could see a spike. If we had a large congregation come together who were not social distancing appropriately, that could lead to a serious cluster of cases and a spike in what we are experiencing," Dr. Jon McCullers with UTHSC said.

Phase one Monday in Memphis and Shelby County will also allow for restaurants and stores to open at 50% capacity, with some restrictions. Gyms and libraries can open at 25%, and elective surgeries will be allowed.

This is developing and we will have the latest on Local 24 News.

May 1 City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

May 1 City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

Posted by City of Memphis on Friday, May 1, 2020

RELATED: Phase 1 of the 'Back-to-Business' plan begins Monday, May 4th | Here's what that means for everyone living in Shelby County


Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee gives update on COVID-19 in the state

3:00 p.m. - Watch HERE.

(TN GOV.'S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE) - Today, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives released guidance for faith communities on gathering together in houses of worship.

“Tennessee’s faith leaders have been incredibly innovative in finding alternative ways to worship that incorporate social distancing so they can continue to provide spiritual guidance, fellowship, and service to their neighbors during these challenging times,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “Religious liberty is important and must be protected, and that’s why the State has always deemed religious services as essential gatherings throughout this pandemic. As we look to reopen our economy in a safe fashion, the decision on in-person gatherings will be up to each individual faith community. We’re confident in their ability to determine the proper time and how to incorporate these guidelines to worship in a way that protects the health of their congregation.”

The full guidelines can be found here.


Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves gives update on COVID-19 in the state

2:30 p.m. - Watch HERE.

LIVE: Governor Tate Reeves COVID-19 Response

We are discussing our largest single day increase in COVID-19 cases and the effort by the legislature to remove our ability to pay for the emergency response.

Posted by Tate Reeves on Friday, May 1, 2020


Kroger Health announces additional COVID-19 testing

(NEWS RELEASE) - Kroger Health is announcing an additional COVID-19 testing site next week for patients in the Memphis area. Kroger Health, along with Cherokee Health Systems, is proud to partner with the University of Memphis to host this FREE drive-thru event. Testing will be Tuesday, May 5 through Thursday, May 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Testing will be held on the University of Memphis campus at the Central Avenue parking lot next to the Holiday Inn (signage will be displayed).

People needing a test will use a virtual screening tool based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to see if they are eligible. Those who are eligible for the testing include health care workers, symptomatic individuals and asymptomatic individuals based on CDC, state and local government recommendations.

Interested individuals can schedule a test at: http://krogerhealth.com/covidtesting

Those eligible will then select the University of Memphis testing location and appointment time and receive an email confirmation with pre-appointment paperwork. When the patient arrives for a test, they should have a photo ID ready and leave their windows rolled up for check-in. A health care practitioner will approach the car and alert the patient when to roll down their window.

The drive-thru testing location has a self-administered nasal swab that must be ordered and observed by a provider.

This onsite testing is supported with laboratory services provided by eTrueNorth, a contractor of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Test results are expected within approximately 48 hours. Kroger Health is expected to administer 250 tests per day.


Tennessee reports more than 1,100 new confirmed cases and 5 new deaths since Thursday (11,891 cases/204 deaths total)

2:00 p.m. - The Tennessee Department of Health reports 1,156 new cases and 5 new deaths in the state. The total now stands so far at 11,891, including 204 deaths.

1,113 people have been hospitalized and 5,546 have recovered. 186,132 have been tested in the state.

Find the full breakdown from the Tennessee Department of Health HERE.


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson gives update on COVID-19 in the state

1:30 p.m. - Watch HERE.

RELATED: Barbershops, salons in Arkansas to reopen May 6th

(KTHV) - As of Friday, May 1, the Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed a total of 3,321 positive cases.

On Wednesday, there were 2,520 COVID-19 tests were performed in Arkansas, with a 1.5% positivity rate. This is the highest number of tests run in one day in the state since March 11.

Key facts to know:

  • 3,321 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas 
  • 47,937 total tests
  • 44,656 negative test results
  • 64 reported deaths
  • 1,339 recoveries
  • All Arkansas schools are closed for the remainder of the school year


Memphis & Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force briefing

12:00 p.m. - COVID-19 Joint Task Force update with Dr. Alisa Haushalter, Director, Shelby County Health Department and Dr. Jon McCullers, UTHSC. 

Watch HERE.

May 1 City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

May 1 City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

Posted by City of Memphis on Friday, May 1, 2020


Mississippi reports 397 new cases & 20 new deaths (7,212 cases/281 deaths total); Desoto County reports 11 new cases (293 case/4 deaths total)

11:45 a.m. - The Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting 397 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 20 new deaths. 

The total of coronavirus cases since March 11 is now 7,212, with 281 deaths.

Desoto County reports 11 new cases (293 total, and no new deaths (4 total). 

Find the full breakdown from the Mississippi State Department of Health HERE.


Tennessee Driver Services Division will not return to full service Friday

(NEWS RELEASE) - The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDOSHS) continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic closely. Most Driver Services Centers remain open while taking precautions to protect the health and safety of our customers and employees. While Tennessee has begun reopening various industries for business this week, Executive Orders for Driver Services remain in effect and limited services will be offered until May 18. In the coming weeks, the Department will release details on a phased approach to resume full services.

Please refer to the links below which include Executive Orders still in effect, changes made and precautions being taken at Driver Services Centers.

March 19, 2020 press release: https://www.tn.gov/safety/news/2020/3/19/tennessee-department-of-safety---homeland-security-s-driver-services-division-announces-service-updates.html

March 25, 2020 press release: https://www.tn.gov/safety/news/2020/3/25/tennessee-department-of-safety---homeland-security-s-announces-additional-driver-services-division-updates.html

Our e-Services portal is available for customers to complete driver services such as renewals, duplicates, paying reinstatement fees, and completing the new resident application.


Shelby County reports 72 new cases and 3 new deaths (2,556 cases/50 deaths total)

10:00 a.m. - The Shelby County Health Department reports 72 new confirmed cases and 3 new deaths. There have now been a total of 2,556 cases and 50 deaths in the county.

1,332 people have recovered.

Find the full breakdown from the Shelby County Health Department HERE.

RELATED: Phase 1 of the 'Back-to-Business' plan begins Monday, May 4th | Here's what that means for everyone living in Shelby County

RELATED: 'Back to Business' plan details how to gradually reopen Memphis and Shelby County economy


Arkansas reports more than 1300 recoveries amid 3200+ confirmed cases

(KTHV) - As of 6:00 p.m. Thursday, April 30, the Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed a total of 3,281 positive cases.

On Wednesday, Gov. Hutchinson announced Arkansas will open restaurants for limited dine-in services on May 11 at 33% occupancy for phase one.

The governor also announced the “Arkansas Ready for Business” $15 million grant program. It will assist companies in the re-start phase and the money will help with PPE, hand sanitizing stations, etc.

Key facts to know:

  • 3,281 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas 
  • 47,937 total tests
  • 44,656 negative test results
  • 61 reported deaths
  • 1,339 recoveries
  • All Arkansas schools are closed for the remainder of the school year

Find more from the Arkansas Department of Health HERE.


Mid-South Food Bank mobile food pantries for Friday, May 1

  • 10:00 a.m. - Fairley High  - 4950 Fairley 
  • 10:00 a.m. - Women's Foundation - 690 Mississippi 
  • 10:00 a.m. - Iglesia Nueva Direccion - 3097 Knight 
  • 10:00 a.m. - Shady Grove Pres. Church - 5530 Shady Grove 
  • 10:00 a.m. - Powerhouse - 1350 Norris
Our Mission is to change lives by eliminating hunger in the Mid-South. By providing food for families, children and seniors, we impact their lives by solving one of the biggest struggles they face: getting enough nutritious food to eat to live a healthy life. Join us in our Vision of Hunger to Hope.

RELATED: 1 million recovered worldwide from COVID-19

RELATED: Start of May brings reopenings from coronavirus around the world


Coronavirus in Context: 

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80-percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. 
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.