TIMELINE: Mid-South coronavirus updates April 16

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The impact of the novel coronavirus is being felt all across the Mid-South where new cases are being announced every day and new steps are being taken to help limit the spread. Keep checking back for the latest COVID-19 updates throughout the day.

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Below are the latest updates for Thursday, April 16, 2020:

UPDATE: (3:30 p.m.) Governor Lee held his daily briefing from the state’s capital. His call came shortly after a call with the White House and President Trump.

Gov. Lee said Trump has outlined a plan to reopen the state’s economy. The state will be reviewing it before making any final decisions, but he praised the plan.

Lee said Trump wants a phased approach to reopen the nation, starting first with low-risk places. The Tennessee governor said we must continue to follow social distancing even after the economy starts to get back underway.

Gov. Lee also announced the people who will make up the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group.

“The CARES Act has given our state critical relief to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and begin to reopen Tennessee’s economy,” said Gov. Lee. “We must ensure that these funds are spent wisely and effectively, and I’m grateful to the members of this group for their valuable input as we steward these resources and serve Tennesseans."

Members of the group include:

  • Governor Bill Lee
  • Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally
  • House Speaker Cameron Sexton
  • Senator Bo Watson
  • Senator Raumesh Akbari
  • Representative Pat Marsh
  • Representative Harold Love Jr.
  • Justin P. Wilson, Comptroller of the Treasury
  • Commissioner Butch Eley, Finance & Administration
  • Stuart McWhorter, COVID-19 Unified Command

Gov. Lee said the group also look at which parts the state will be able to start getting underway to jump-start the economy.

He also stressed that if you feel sick or have been around someone who has been sick, you need to be tested.

Yesterday it was announced that there would be free statewide testing. This is also for people who do not have the typical symptoms of COVID-19.

UPDATE: (3:00 p.m.) The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is doing its part to help the community during this difficult time.

Yesterday, they partnered with the Mid-South Food Bank to distribute groceries to those in need.

They released the following photos of the car delivery today!

UPDATE: (2:00 p.m.) The COVID-19 case count for Tennessee is now 6,262 as of April 16, 2020, including 141 deaths, 691 hospitalizations and 2,786 recovered.

UPDATE: (1:30 p.m.) Arkansas announced at their daily briefing there are 51 new cases that bring the total in Arkansas to 1,620.

There have been four more deaths. Two of them were under 65, but all of them had underlying health problems.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson continues to show that the state is plateauing for cases. He emphasized that there will be spikes, but he urged that people continue to follow social distancing. Secretary Smith provided more details on the cases across Arkansas.

There are five fewer people on ventilators, according to Secretary Smith. There are now 231 health care workers who have contracted the coronavirus, but 80 of them recovered.

On the number of cases in the Arkansas prison system, they do not have any new numbers. They are waiting for new details from recent tests.

Secretary Smith echoed the governor by saying there are positive trends and the state continues to plateau.

“We should start planning ahead when we are past the peak,” Smith said.

Hutchinson also talked about the economic crisis that is gripping the nation. There have 136,000 unemployment claims that have been processed since the pandemic started to affect Arkansas.

The Head of Commerce for Arkansas spoke on the economic issues that are facing the state but provided a new tool to help with the high volume of questions flooding the offices.

There is a new website set up to help with unemployment claims and information. They have also expanded the call center hours to help tackle the high number of claims. They are working to add a chatbot that will put you in touch with a live person to help provide guidance.

UPDATE: (1:15 p.m.)

David Sweat, Chief of Epidemiology for the Shelby County Health Department, said Shelby County has 1,508 cases as of today.

Shelby County has had 32 total deaths. Sweat said 15,667 people have been tested.

The Shelby County Health Department is continuing to provide more details about the number of people who have tested positive.

African-Americans make up 71 percent of total cases, according to Sweat. Out of the deaths, 62 percent of those were men. 26 percent of deaths happened in healthcare settings, and 20 percent were travel-associated.

Sweat said of those who died, over 80 percent had a cardiac condition or version of heart disease. A third of the victims had diabetes. Officials said Conditions like obesity and respiratory problems were also contributing factors.

The median age of those who died is 67-years-old, according to Sweat. The SCHD is currently working with seven senior living facilities that have seen outbreaks.

Sweat reminded everyone to wear a mask and wash your hands frequently. Sweat said of all reported cases, only 19 of those were in children under the age of 18.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced the COVID-19 Assistance Fund. This will help with the expansion of testing, especially in areas such as Frayser and Hickory Hill, and with PPE.

The money will also be used to help with economic recovery efforts for those whose livelihoods have been impacted by the pandemic, Harris said. Harris said the County has enacted a work-at-home policy to reduce nonessential activity.

A flexible paid sick leave policy will allow over 3,000 county employees to use sick leave to stay at home. Harris said 621 people are taking advantage of that now.

Harris said the County has increased sanitization of buildings and limited outside visitors to reduce the spread of the virus.

County employees are also using virtual and phone conferences more. Harris said employers should look for ways to support their employees during this time.

Doug McGowen, Chief Operating Officer for the City of Memphis, thanked everyone who has been practicing social distancing. McGowen said testing resources are available for anyone who feels ill.

“If you feel ill, get tested,” McGowen said.

People who feel ill should write down every person they came into contact with at least two days prior to becoming symptomatic, according to McGowen.

The health department will then do a contact investigation and make sure those people get tested. It was also emphasized that local hospitals are prepared for a surge of cases.

Construction on the old Commercial Appeal building will begin this week. The project will last 28 days, with completion expected in mid-May. This timeline means the project will be finished at about the same time the surge of cases is expected in the area.

As far as reopening the city, local officials are looking at a number of factors in order to put a plan together for reopening.

McGowen asked people who are able to donate to the Mid-South Food Bank to please do so.

A Mid-South Pet Food Bank will launch Monday, and people will be able to get food for their pets by calling 901-636-1418.

UPDATE: (10:16 a.m.) The Mississippi Department of Health is reporting 264 new cases of COVID-19 this morning and seven new deaths.

This brings the total number of coronavirus cases in the state to 3,624 with 129 deaths.

UPDATE: (10:03 a.m.) Shelby County health officials are reporting 1,508 cases of COVID-19 this morning.

Another person in Shelby County has died due to the virus.

UPDATE: (9:04 a.m.) The PGA Tour announced this morning that the 2020 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational will now take place July 29-August 2.

UPDATE: (8 a.m.) ServiceMaster will decontaminate vehicles for the Memphis Police Department again today, according to a press release.

The service is being donated. About 50 vehicles will be decontaminated.

The decontamination will take place at the MPD located at 6850 Appling Farms Pkwy., Memphis, TN 38133.

UPDATE: (7:45 a.m.) Oak Court Mall will provide a free lunch to all active first responders tomorrow, according to a press release.

The lunches, provided in partnership with Chik-fil-A, will be available via curbside pick-up from 12 to 2 p.m.

According to the press release:

In the midst of an unprecedented health situation, more than ever, Oak Court Mall is embracing its role as a community partner by finding unique ways to transform its space for social good. Feeding first responders is one way that Oak Court is showing its support for the local community during this trying time.

Oak Court Mall will continue to work with local, state and federal agencies to do all they can in order to contribute to the containment, treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

UPDATE: (6:07 a.m.) Pancho’s West Memphis is working to make a difference, one taco at a time.

The restaurant is providing free curbside meals today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The meals will be available while supplies last. No purchase is necessary.

The food is available for pick-up only.

The restaurant is located at 3600 E. Broadway Ave., West Memphis, AR 72301.

UPDATE: (4:30 a.m.) Below are the latest number of cases by state for our area:

Tennessee 6,079 - 135 deaths.

24 cases in Dyer County. 1,421 cases in Shelby County. 53 cases in Tipton County. 39 cases in Fayette County.

31 deaths in Shelby County.

Mississippi 3,360 - 122 deaths.

43 cases in Coahoma County. 199 cases in DeSoto County. 36 cases in Lafayette County. 35 cases in Marshall County. 26 cases in Panola County. 26 cases in Tate County. 45 cases in Tippah County. 23 cases in Tunica County.

Arkansas 1,599 - 34 deaths.

122 cases in Crittenden County. 2 people have died in Crittenden County.