Friday update

Wiseacre Brewing Co. posted the following announcement to Instagram:

We’ve added Gotta Get Up to Get Down to the 12pk fam! We also have dock sales kegs available of Tiny Bomb, Ananda, GGU, Regular, Sands, and a few 5 gallon kegs of Lord Skylark. Our downtown facility will now just be open Fridays and Saturdays 3-8PM for pickup. Hours and details on Broad are staying the same for delivery + curbside pickup.

A zoning exception has been granted to allow a building at 7 Vance (at Wagner Place) to be renovated into 210 apartments. There was some concern by neighbors about increased traffic in the area, and a traffic light at Front and Vance was suggested. Maybe that would slow the weekend drag racers down.

Leadership 101:

A limited number of tickets to Memphis 901 FC‘s home match this Saturday will go on sale today at 10.

The Downtown Memphis Commission is considering offering a new pre-development grant to help businesses with expenses that pile up before the first shovel ever hits the ground: things like marketing assessments, environmental tests, and structural assessments.

From Chalkbeat Tennessee: I’m a teacher who survived COVID-19. I’m not ready to return to the classroom.

Grind City Brewery is unable to open its Taproom in the far north corner of Uptown, the Daily Memphian reports, because a utility pole stands in its way. A 3000 SF deck is sitting there, unable to be enjoyed by customers, because of the pole.

Local musician Jeff Hulett will play a virtual concert in Health Sciences Park today noon to 1.

54-year-old Mike Tyson makes a comeback in September in an 8-round exhibition match. Damn, he’s old enough to sit at the corner table at Max’s Sports Bar!

There was a lot going on in yesterday’s Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force update. Here’s a summary.

Mayor Strickland led off. He complimented Memphians on their vastly improved effort wearing masks recently. He said yesterday, Code Enforcement only received 3 complaints about masking while conducting 46 inspections and issuing 14 warnings and one summons. Since the mask ordinance went into effect, 214 violations have been found by Code Enforcement, and only one second summons has had to be issued for a business. Later in Q&A, Strickland said most businesses can be brought into compliance with education, but for those that refuse to comply, the city can issue fines and turn to the Health Department to shut businesses down.

Next up was city Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen. Chief McGowen explained that for now, the testing priority needs to be those who are displaying symptoms. He said that the lack of testing capacity, and the reason for backlogs, is supply chain issues not only locally, but around the nation and the world. He also said they are looking into saliva tests as a way to increase capacity (and not have to stick that damn swab 5 inches up people’s nose).

McGowen also said they are looking to bring on a testing czar to the task force, someone who lives and breathes COVID-19 testing and will leave no stone unturned.

Health Department Director Dr. Haushalter was up next. She said that the number of cases a day is about 400, which is significant, but it has leveled off the past week. Later in the questions she said the fact that it has leveled off might mean a less aggressive approach than if the number were still on the rise – it could be considered a “new normal.”

The average positivity rate for the past week has been above 15%, which is concerning. She said she has more concern over that number than the cumulative 9.8% positive rate since the pandemic came to Shelby County.

Haushalter commented on guidelines for opening schools. She said there are two sets of guidelines, one of which is issued by the American Academy of Physicians, calling for 3 to 6 feet of social distancing. which differs from the CDC’s guideline of 6 feet, period. She said the Health Department concurs with the CDC on social distancing in schools.

Next Haushalter discussed the difference between the terms “isolation” and “quarantine” as relates to the pandemic:

  • Isolation refers to people who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or have suspected cases with symptoms. The recommendation here is that people return to work after 10 days of isolating and 1 day of being symptom-free without medication (previously the guidance was 3 days). Those who are symptomatic may have to take 20 or more days to become symptom-free and should not return to work until they are. Managers are asked not to require a second COVID-19 test for employees to be able to return to work, to preserve testing capacity.
  • Quarantine only applies to people who are contacts – not ill, not diagnosed. If quarantined, you must take a 14-day break from regular activities, including work. Even if you test negative, you cannot return to work until the 15th day.

There has been a resolution to re-establish the Board of Health, which was abolished in 1911 when Boss Crump was mayor of Memphis. This would be a permanent body which would do complementary work to the Health Department. It would be made up of a diverse array of opinions, including

  • 2 physicians
  • 1 pharmacist
  • 1 nurse
  • 1 dentist
  • 1 veterinarian
  • 1 citizen

This would be unpaid positions, but would be considered positions of great prestige that would serve as career highlights. The board’s role would be “a voice for public health.” To some degree, the purpose of the board would be to remove politics and add perspective.

Haushalter gave the example of Nashville/Davidson County, which has a Board of Health. Through this board they passed menu labeling, getting them ahead of both the state in the nation in terms of addressing obesity.

Strickland was asked if he had heard anything about federal agents coming to Memphis as they have some other major cities, and he said, not a thing, not a rumor.

Dr. H was asked about contact tracing within schools. She said tracing would be similar to any other facility. Tracers will work closely with schools to identify whether the transmission happened within the school or in a household. Tracers will work with schools to do additional testing when there is clustering within a classroom. The Department will learn as the school year goes on and will hone their tracing practices in this setting.

Haushalter now believes they will need as many as 250 contact tracers. They will have dedicated teams focusing on key vulnerable populations, and intend to have a “point person” schools can turn to.

The CDC advises prioritizing whose contacts are traced, since the number of cases is so great that it’s impossible to trace them all. Pediatric cases were said to always be a priority.

At first I found it odd that no one asked about the lawsuit by limited service restaurants to reopen, but I suspect Mayor Strickland advised prior to the press conference that they could not comment on pending litigation.

The panel was offered a chance to make final comments. Haushalter noted that flu season will soon be upon us, and encouraged everyone to get vaccinated early this year.

Oh, THIS should be interesting. People gon’ have some ‘splainin’ to do.

That’s it for right now. Back tomorrow with more news.