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Mid-South coronavirus updates: Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signs new safer at home order

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


Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signs new safer at home order

(MS GOV.'S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE) - Today, Governor Tate Reeves signed a new executive order establishing a statewide Safer at Home order for Mississippi to continue protecting public health while beginning the process to safely reopen the state's economy.

In his new executive order, Governor Reeves lays out a measured and strategic plan to reopen Mississippi while continuing to flatten the curve and conserve healthcare resources. Consulting with our state health experts, the Executive Order sets out guidelines for certain business operations and healthcare activities to safely resume.

Governor Reeves announced his new executive order at his daily press briefing today, which you can view live on our Facebook page here.

"This disease has not hit every American fairly. And the economic damage has not hit every American fairly. Wall Street and Hollywood will be fine. Mississippi small businesses and workers are not. That’s who has been asked to shoulder the country’s burden. It’s not fair, and it’s not right. We are starting to re-open our economy. It’s not a light switch that only goes on and off. It’s a dimmer. We can take measured steps to make life better," said Governor Tate Reeves.

In this latest executive order, the Governor lays out the guidelines of the Safer at Home order to continue flattening the curve, including:

  • Mississippians are encouraged to stay at home unless they need to leave for essential activities or essential travel, such as caring for someone in the vulnerable population, getting food or necessary supplies, and going to work.
  • All those in the vulnerable population are instructed to continue sheltering in place to protect their health.
    • This includes all elderly individuals (age 65 or older per CDC guidelines) and individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune systems are compromised as such by chemotherapy for cancer or any other condition requiring such therapy.
  • When outside of their homes, people must follow social distancing guidelines by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and avoid groups of 10 or more.
  • Social and other non-essential gatherings in groups of more than 10 people must be cancelled or rescheduled.
  • Evictions are suspended, though people are still required to pay any rent or make any mortgage payments.
  • Certain businesses previously closed under the shelter-in-place are allowed to reopen, while following health and safety mandates recommended by the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH).
  • Places of amusement or entertainment, like movie theaters and museums, and businesses that cannot avoid sustained person-to-person contact, like salons or gyms, will remain closed, other than curbside pick-up, drive-thru, or delivery for retails sale of their products but not services.
  • All businesses and non-profit organizations are encouraged to continue allowing their employees to work from home or telework to all extent possible.
  • Restaurants and bars may only remain open for drive-thru, curbside pick-up, and/or delivery service.
  • Retail businesses are to implement reasonable measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including limiting the number of customers in their stores at one time to no greater than 50% of their store capacity and making hand sanitizer available to customers upon entry.
  • Healthcare professionals and facilities may resume performing elective medical and dental procedures and surgeries as allowed and approved by MSDH. Such non-emergent procedures and surgeries should limit their use of disposable PPE and not request PPE from any public source.

You can view the Safer at Home Executive Order here.

Safer at Home FAQs can be found on the Governor's website at governorreeves.ms.gov/covid-19.


City of Southaven holds special meeting on COVID-19 "Comeback Plan"

3:30 p.m. - The Southaven Mayor and Board of Aldermen are holding a specially called meeting to discuss the city's COVID-19 "Comeback plan."

Watch HERE.


Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris extends stay at home order for 7 more days


Agricenter to open Farmer's Market May 19

(NEWS RELEASE) - Agricenter International today announced that it will open its Farmer’s Market on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. The market, which has historically operated six days a week, will begin its 2020 season on an abbreviated schedule due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Agricenter International Farmer’s Market will be open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  For now, crafts and other non-food items will not be sold.

“The Farmer’s Market is a critical part of our campus, and we are excited about the opportunity to open the market and offer the community better access to local produce and other farm-raised products,” said John Butler, President of Agricenter International. “We are making new improvements to the Farmer’s Market to address additional concerns during this pandemic. We will be asking all our customers to practice social distancing and follow all local, state, and CDC guidelines.”

Agricenter international’s Farmer’s Market has been a trusted partner for the area’s farmers and ranchers since 1986 and is the oldest continuously operated farmer’s market in West Tennessee. “We appreciate our customers’ support and patience over the next few weeks and encourage the entire Mid-South community to support our local farmers,” said Butler.


Germantown working on plan for reopening businesses

(CITY OF GERMANTOWN NEWS RELEASE) - As we prepare to move forward with a phased approach to reopen our businesses, the City of Germantown sincerely thanks you for your cooperation and patience through this most trying time. “We would not be in this place without the efforts of our residents to keep themselves and their families safe,” said Mayor Mike Palazzolo. By following safer at home orders and putting CDC suggestions into practice, together residents have slowed the number of new Covid-19 infections to the point where leaders are preparing to slowly open the faucet on the local economy.

While the reopening will not happen overnight, the City continues to work diligently with the Shelby County Health Department and municipalities across the county to develop a cooperative approach to getting back to business. All involved are working to prioritize the life and safety of county residents. “We ask you to stick with us. It’s imperative that we remember that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said City Administrator Patrick Lawton. Measures such as social distancing, wearing masks in public spaces and limiting the number of people who are gathered together are expected to continue for some time. “The only way we will continue to recover from this crisis is if we all do our part to help protect ourselves and our friends and family,” Lawton added.

In terms of the economic reopening, the plan takes a phased approach. Each of the three phases require that certain milestones be reached in order to continue the progression toward total reopening. The milestones in the plan follow the recommendations published by the federal government in recent days. The Shelby County Health Department will lead the way in monitoring data. It is important to understand that an increase in Covid-19 cases could lead to the return to a previous stage with higher levels of restriction. The plan is expected to be made public on Wednesday, April 29.

The City of Germantown has a comprehensive plan in place to work closely with businesses as they reopen to deploy plans to protect workers and customers. Details are being finalized. Information will be shared with businesses early next week.


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

2:30 p.m. - Watch HERE.

LIVE: Governor Tate Reeves COVID-19 Response

Our shelter in place order expires on Monday. We are replacing it with a “Safer at Home” order that has several important changes for you, small businesses, and workers. A safe step towards re-opening our economy. We discuss all of that and more in our daily briefing.

Posted by Tate Reeves on Friday, April 24, 2020


Tennessee reports 460 new confirmed cases in the state

2:00 p.m. - The Tennessee Department of Health reports 460 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state. In total, the state has 8,726 cases and 168 deaths total (an adjustment since Thursday, in which the state reported 170 deaths. From TDH: "A data entry error on 4/23 was corrected causing the number of deaths to decrease by 2.")

131,298 have been tested so far throughout the state. 808 people have been hospitalized, and 4,370 have recovered.

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

RELATED: Here are all the coronavirus testing sites in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas


Read Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's Weekly Newsletter HERE.


Arkansas updates to more than 2,700 cases in the state

(KTHV) - As of Friday afternoon, the Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed 2,741 positive COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

Gov. Hutchinson announced a two-day campaign called the Arkansas Surge Campaign. If you have symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, "Don’t Wait, Get Tested.” 

The governor also laid out a timeline of when decisions to open will be made leading up to May 4. This does not mean the decision will be yes, but a decision will be made on these dates: 

  • April 29 on restaurants 
  • April 30 on gyms 
  • May 1 on beauty salons/barber shops 
  • May 4 places of worship/large venues

Key facts to know:

  • 2,741 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas 
  • 35,443 total tests
  • 32,837 negative test results
  • 46 reported deaths
  • 932 recoveries
  • All Arkansas schools are closed for the remainder of the school year


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

1:30 p.m. - Watch HERE.


The Village at Germantown reports 7th resident & 5th worker tested positive for COVID-19

(NEWS RELEASE) - Administrators of The Village at Germantown today reported to state and local public health officials that a seventh resident and fifth worker have tested positive for COVID-19.

The resident lives in the retirement community’s Healthcare unit. Six others who resided in the unit have tested positive for the disease. Three are in the hospital being treated for COVID-19 and other conditions. Four have died. All had been in and out of hospitals or other healthcare facilities and have serious health conditions.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our residents and their families,” said Michael K. Craft, chief executive officer of The Village. “No other residents are known or suspected to have been infected.”

“We began testing asymptomatic employees in the Healthcare departments earlier this month. We had our first positive test just reported,” Craft said. “This individual is a contracted employee who does not serve in a direct care role and presents a low risk of disease transmission to residents.”

“Of 42 employees tested so far, five tested positive. They are quarantined at their homes. To my knowledge, all are doing well and most are asymptomatic. Twenty-one employees have tested negative. We are still waiting on test results of 16 employees,” he said.

The Village, which has about 325 residents, has a Medical Director, a physician, on staff. In addition, healthcare executives there are in consultation with an infectious disease specialist on an on-going basis and are in ongoing communication with Tennessee and Shelby County Health Departments.

There are no positive tests among residents and employees of The Village’s Memory Care, Assisted-Living or Independent Living areas.


Tennessee Department of Health tests detainees & employees at Shelby County jail

(SHELBY COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE) - The Tennessee Department of Health, in partnership with the Shelby County Health Department and the Center for Disease Control, conducted COVID-19 testing today for nearly 400 detainees and employees at the Main Jail (201 Poplar). 

Nurses, along with federal, state and local health officials, collected nasal swabs from inmates and corrections deputies, and test results may be available mid-week. 

“I am thankful for the collaborative efforts among public health officials in this joining us in a concerted effort to keep our staff and detainees safe,” said Sheriff Floyd Bonner, Jr. “I am looking to continue this partnership during these unprecedented times.” 

As of April 24, eight detainees had tested positive for COVID-19, with two hospitalized and one recovered. 

For weeks, SCSO has been working with our Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice partners, to include the Attorney General’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office, in a concerted effort to reduce the jail population. 

There are 1,757 detainees in the Shelby County Jail, which is about 63% of its capacity, and 162 detainees at Jail East, 42% of its capacity, and 62 incarcerated youth at Juvenile Detention Center, 46% of its capacity. 

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office continues to follow the guidelines of the Shelby County Health Department and CDC by cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and promoting hand and respiratory hygiene in the workplace. All employees who work with detainees are required to wear masks. All detainees at all three detention facilities have been issued masks, as well.


Memphis & Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force briefing

12:00 p.m. - The Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force is holding a briefing with Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and the Shelby County Health Department.

Watch HERE.

April 24 City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

April 24 City of Memphis/Shelby County Joint Covid Task Force Update

Posted by City of Memphis on Friday, April 24, 2020


Mississippi announces extensions for some whose licenses/permits are expiring

(NEWS RELEASE) - The Mississippi Department of Public Safety announces expiration date extensions in accordance with Executive Order 1474 issued on April 20, 2020 to cope with and respond to the COVID-19 emergency.  

All valid driver’s licenses, learner’s permits, intermediate licenses, firearm permits, security guard permits, and ID cards set to expire between March 14, 2020 and June 30, 2020 shall instead expire on August 3, 2020.  

Online services are available for renewal and duplicate driver’s licenses, ID cards and address changes that can be made from any computer, tablet, or mobile phone at www.dps.ms.gov and www.driverservicebureau.dps.ms.gov

Driver license stations remain closed to the public except for the 9 MHP District Troop Stations across the state until further notice.  

The 9 MHP District Troop Stations will only provide the following services:  Sex offender registry transactions  ALL Commercial Driver License (CDL) transactions  

The Driver Service Bureau will adhere to social distancing with the 10-person maximum recommendation at any location which will include staff members.  


Mississippi reports more than 5,400 confirmed cases and 209 deaths

10:05 a.m. - The Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting 281 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, with eight new deaths. 

The total of coronavirus cases since March 11 is now 5,434, with 209 deaths in the state.

Desoto County has a total of 256 cases with 4 deaths.

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


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

10:00 a.m. - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is giving an update on the COVID-19 response in the state. He is breaking down his plan for a gradual reopening of businesses.

Watch HERE.

(TN GOV.'S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE) - Today, Gov. Bill Lee issued the first steps from the “Tennessee Pledge,” the state’s rollout of guidance and best practices for Tennessee businesses in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to keep employees and customers safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first industries to receive guidance through the plan include the restaurant and retail industries.

“Tennesseans pulled together to flatten the curve, and it is time for people to begin to get back to work and back to their businesses,” Lee said. “We are pursuing a careful, measured approach to reopening our economy that does not depend on heavy-handed mandates but instead provides practical tools for businesses of all sizes.”

Lee underscored the Tennessee Pledge plan for safe economic recovery is supported by data showing Tennessee’s curve of novel coronavirus infections hitting a plateau. Lee also pointed to the unsettling economic reality COVID-19 has created in our state.

Tennessee has seen the average daily growth rate remain stable for 14 days, in addition to a steady downward trajectory in positive tests as a percentage of total tests since April 1. The state has also had a massive ramp up in testing, included open testing available to all Tennesseans across 33 sites over last weekend, 18 this weekend, and more the next.

On the economic front, 15 percent of Tennessee’s workforce filed unemployment claims as of this week – more than 400,000 people. State officials predict a $5 billion loss in the state’s gross domestic product during 2020.

Lee said today’s announcement is the first step in a phased reopening of the state’s economy, which entails rebooting industries as they are safe to pursue in 89 of the state’s 95 counties. The state is working with Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan on plans to reopen businesses in those counties. Lee added that many Tennesseans are facing not just potential sickness but crippling financial hardship, particularly in the service industries.

Lee announced Tennessee restaurants are able to reopen Monday at 50 percent occupancy. Additionally, Tennessee retailers are able to reopen on Wednesday at 50 percent occupancy. The state recommends that employees in both industries wear cloth face coverings and that business owners follow federal guidelines for hygiene and workplace sanitation standards related to the pandemic. The full guidance offered by the state for both sectors can be found here.

“Like the rest of the country, Tennessee has taken an unprecedented economic hit with families and small businesses feeling the most pain,” Lee said. “We must stay vigilant as a state, continue to practice social distancing, and engage in best practices at our businesses so that we can stay open.”

Lee’s administration assembled the Tennessee Economic Recovery Group, pulling together the state’s departments of tourism, economic development, and revenue, members of the Tennessee General Assembly, and business leaders to safely reboot Tennessee’s economy. The group is chaired by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell.

Ezell said the state’s guidelines for restaurants and retail stores were developed in cooperation with business leaders in both sectors, mayors from across the state, and members of the legislature and health experts, as well as Unified Command which includes the Tennessee Department of Health. He added the reopening of future sectors would be accomplished with similar input from industry leaders and elected officials.

“We need Tennessee businesses, workers, and consumers to step up and pledge to follow these guidelines,” Ezell said. “It is critically important that we maintain our commitment to social distancing and adhere to these new guidelines so that we can continue to reopen our economy.”


Today, Gov. Bill Lee and the Economic Recovery Group issued first steps from the “Tennessee Pledge,” the state’s rollout of guidance and best practices for Tennessee businesses in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to keep employees and customers safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first industries to receive guidance through the plan include the restaurant and retail industries.

Restaurant Industry Guidance can be downloaded here, Retail Industry Guidance can be downloaded here, and General Guidance for Tennessee Businesses can be downloaded here.

Additionally, a comprehensive summary of this guidance can be downloaded here.

Gov. Lee and the Economic Recovery Group will provide specific guidance for additional Tennessee industries in the coming weeks. More information on the Tennessee Pledge is available here and more information on Tennessee's Economic Recovery Group is available here.


Shelby County reports 1,981 confirmed cases and 43 deaths

9:30 a.m. - The Shelby County Department of Health reports 50 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2 new deaths.

There are now a total of 1,981 cases and 43 deaths in the county.

20,761 people have been tested in the county.

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


Arkansas reports more than 2,600 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 45 deaths

(KTHV) - As of Friday, the Arkansas Department of Health has confirmed 2,606 positive COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

Gov. Hutchinson announced a two-day campaign called the Arkansas Surge Campaign. If you have symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, "Don’t Wait, Get Tested.” 

The governor also laid out a timeline of when decisions to open will be made leading up to May 4. This does not mean the decision will be yes, but a decision will be made on these dates: 

  • April 29 on restaurants 
  • April 30 on gyms 
  • May 1 on beauty salons/barber shops 
  • May 4 places of worship/large venues

Key facts to know:

  • 2,606 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas 
  • 35,443 total tests
  • 32,837 negative test results
  • 45 reported deaths
  • 929 recoveries
  • All Arkansas schools are closed for the remainder of the school year

Find more from the Arkansas Department of Health HERE.


Walgreens opens a free drive-thru testing center Friday in Memphis

Walgreens will open a COVID-19 testing site in Memphis beginning Friday, April 24. Testing will be done outside the store, where pharmacists will oversee patients’ self-administration of the COVID-19 test, using Abbott’s new ID NOW COVID-19 test.

Location: 3502 Summer Ave.

Testing at this location is available by appointment only, and only to individuals who meet eligibility criteria established by the CDC. In order to receive a test, you must first complete an online health assessment to determine eligibility available by clicking here.

Testing will be FREE to eligible individuals.  Those who are eligible and make an appointment, are asked to remain in their vehicles.

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RELATED: There will soon be even more places to get tested for COVID-19 in Shelby County

RELATED: Mid-South coronavirus updates: Memphis Education Fund donates $150,000 to help students in need

RELATED: Here are all the coronavirus testing sites in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas


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.