Wednesday update

Let’s get the Downtown news done and then we’ll dive into the recap of yesterday’s COVID-19 press conference.

The Memphis Grizzlies are in San Antonio to tip off the regular season tonight against the Spurs at 7. Catch it on Fox Sports Southeast or ESPN 92.9.

One Beale developer Chase Carlisle announced that 9-story Hyatt Centric will offer “unparalleled” river views despite being next to the much taller Grand Hyatt.

Check out Chris Herrington’s Early Word column in yesterday’s Daily Memphian if you haven’t already, because if you’re a long-time Downtowner, there’s a face in there that will probably be familiar…


78-year-old carved wood artist Luther Hampton was one of the first people I met when I moved Downtown. His work is not well-known outside of Downtown, but that is about to change. His art is about to be featured at the Brooks, as well as the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Tennessee State Museum. Congratulations to Luther on some well-earned recognition. To see his work locally, visit Tops Gallery at 400 S. Front.

Edible Memphis reported yesterday that you can now order The Brunch Box from Chef Tam’s website. Chef Tam, owner of Chef Tam’s Underground Kitchen out in The Edge District, offers Shrimp & Gtits Brunch Boxes, as well as Brunch Boxes featuring Chicken & Waffles, Biscuits & Sausage Gravy, or vegan brunch food. The boxes can be bought in servings for 1, 2, or 4.

From Nextdoor: Someone stole the wheels off a Corvette in broad daylight this week on Tennessee Street.

Happy Festivus! CNN has 5 steps to making the most of this holiday.

Memphis Tourism president Kevin Kane shared his experiences with a bad bout of COVID-19 last summer.

All right, people. I subjected myself to 51 minutes of this crap early this morning. Let’s do this…

12/22 COVID-19 task force press conference recap

Dr. Haushalter, Health Department director, started off with some statistics for Shelby County.

  • The COVID-19 replication rate is 1.03. That’s a little better than previously, but we really need to get it below 1 to stop exponential growth of the virus.
  • The positivity rate has been above 12% the next week. We need to shoot for a rate below 10%, and then below 5%.
  • The 7-day rolling average of new cases is 786/day, well above all the tripwires
  • The 14-day rolling average is 754/day, above all the tripwires
  • These numbers predict a total of 16,986 cases over the next month

Dr. Manoj Jain, infectious disease advisor for Mayor Jimbo from Mempho, was next up with some projections.

The worst-case scenario, where we do little to nothing to prevent COVID and therefore see a rise in cases similar to North Dakota in October, one of the worst known outbreaks, predicts for the next 2 months for Shelby County:

  • 986 deaths
  • Average of 16 deaths/day

The middle-of-the-road scenario sees us staying the course with the preventative measures we have now, resulting in the following for the next 2 months:

  • 659 deaths
  • Average 11 deaths/day
  • 327 lives saved

If we really all work together to bend the curve downward, as we did in Shelby County back in August, we could expect

  • 439 deaths
  • Average 7 deaths day
  • 547 lives saved

What tactics would be used to bend the curve down? Dr. Jain cited the CDC recommendations:

  • Mandatory masking
  • Increased restrictions
  • Required closures

Dr. Bruce Randolph said “Greetings, fellow citizens of Shelby County” and then encouraged them to go to and get their own copy of Health Directive 16 to read. He summarized the directive:

  • Encourages people as much as possible to stay home. Spend the holidays with your immediate family. Try not to gather with other households or in crowds.
  • Retail 50%
  • Indoor dining 25%. it is the Health Departments’s opinion that on-site dining is a high-risk activity; however, if you choose to do so, do so safely by wearing a mask until the food is at your table
  • Gyms 50%
  • Asking that social activities related to entertainment and recreation be curtailed, especially receptions and parties
  • Encourages employers, if possible, have employees work remotely
  • Curbside service, takeout, delivery encouraged to continue
  • Some businesses are allowed to open, but with special requirements. That’s why he encourages each citizen to get a copy of the health directive.

Next up was Reginald Coopwood, CEO of Regional One Health, and his wife Erica Coopwood. Over the weekend they brainstormed what they can do to help people who will be furloughed or have their hours cut by Safer at Home. As a result, they created Pay It Forward Mid-South, a fund set up to disburse money to those workers. Lead-off gifts of $100,000 have been made, and leading Memphis corporations are being asked to step up. Mayor Harris has made a challenge that when the fund hits $750,000, the county will kick in at least another $50,000.

Question time! Dr. H said that Shelby County is on track to receive its first doses of the vaccine this week, and they will be distributed to first responders, those classified 1-A-1 (as opposed to A1A, a highway in Florida that Vanilla Ice rapped about), beginning Monday.

Dr. H was asked why the Safer at Home order did not go into effect until several days after it was issued. She said it was to give affected businesses time to adjust. In particular, restaurants need time to plan their inventory. She noted that in the past, restaurants have had a 2-3 day warning that a new directive was to be put in place.

A question was asked about two businesses that violated rules by having patrons meet in one secret location and then proceed to a second one. Dr. H said both businesses were closed. They were not fined, because at the time the Health Department did not have authority to do that (they now do).

The Tennessee Medical Reserve was again mentioned as a way you can volunteer to serve your community in the middle of a pandemic.

Jacob Steimer of the Memphis Business Journal asked about a “particularly skeptical” difference between the draft Health Directive 16 that was leaked over the weekend and the one that came out Monday. Okay, before I get to the answer – WHO IS THIS GUY? This is like the third press conference in a row when he’s asked a question smacking of, “Why don’t we just go ahead and shut everything down now?” For someone who works for a business publication, his questions sure seem anti-business.

Dr. H answered by describing the process of meeting with different groups, including doctors on the task force and public officials at different times, to craft a final document. The document that was leaked was a draft and was never intended to be seen as a final document – she called it a “straw man” put forward for feedback.

Dr. H was then asked why the health department sees restaurants as a source of transmission. She said a big problem is that people continue to live their normal lives 1 to 3 or even 4 days after becoming symptomatic. They continue to go to work, they continue to socialize, and they continue to go to restaurants. She also said it’s incorrect to compare a small restaurant to a big-box store. The air flow is different, and in big-box stores you’re not 6 feet away from the same person or people for 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Whew… that’s it for today. Back tomorrow if there’s any news to report. There won’t be a COVID press conference Thursday, which is good because I don’t think I could handle another one of those this week.