‘Safer at Home’: Cities enter the long haul in fighting the Coronavirus

Look down when you’re shopping for essentials during the Coronavirus pandemic. Many area stores are helping shoppers maintain safe social distancing by marking the recommended minimum of six feet between where customers should stand. PICTURED: Walgreens at Stage and Bartlett Boulevard. Photo by John Collins.

Governmental offices, businesses and service providers in the Mid-South and across the nation continue to roll out closures and changes to business as usual during the Coronavirus outbreak.

This week, the mayors of Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Shelby County have signed executive orders requiring people to stay home except for performing essential activities or operation of essential businesses.

At press time Tuesday, the municipalities of Arlington and Millington were expected to follow suit with similar “safer at home” directives. Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said he was communicating with leaders in Lauderdale, Fayette and Tipton counties on creating similar orders.

“Essential services” are defined in each executive order.

‘Safer at home’ in Bartlett

The document for Bartlett says that residents must stay at home (including hotels, motels, shared rental units etc.) unless they are engaged in essential services. When using shared spaces outside the home or going outdoors, they have to remain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person.

Mass gatherings of more than 10 people outside a single household or living unit are prohibited except as defined in the executive order. Non-essential businesses must remain closed, although people can work from home.

Essential activities include commonsense actions such as tending to the health and safety of people and pets.

In part, essential businesses include:

  • Healthcare operations
  • Places where food may be purchased
  • Places where food may be served (only for delivery or carryout)
  • Farming, caring for livestock or fishing
  • Services to help the needy
  • The media
  • Gas stations
  • Auto supply and repair
  • Banks and related financial institutions
  • Hardware stores
  • Construction
  • Various maintenance providers
  • Mailing/logistics services
  • Laundry care facilities
  • Electronics and cellphone stores
  • Essential manufacturers and distributors
  • Public and private transportation service providers (such as Lyft and Uber)
  • Home care or residential facility care for people with physical/mental issues
  • Legal services
  • Accounting services
  • Childcare and daycare facilities
  • Hotels/motels
  • Funeral and burial service providers
  • Private waste removal and recycling services
  • Blood donor operations

This is a summarized listing. See the complete details about Bartlett’s “Safer at Home” executive order online at https://bit.ly/Bartlett-Safer-at-Home-2020.

For information on other municipalities, visit their websites.

Changes for jails

One area that many people might not consider as a vulnerable population during the pandemic are detainees in city and county jails.

One Shelby County Jail employee has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now off duty, and the facility has stepped up its cleaning, disinfecting and screening procedures.

Shelby County Jail (for males) and Jail East (for females and minors) have been working to reduce the population of non-violent offenders since last June, when the Sheriff’s Office created the position of expeditor.

Now that the Coronavirus outbreak is and jails are trying to reduce their detainee population to minimize the spread of the virus, the position is more important than ever.

Capt. Anthony Buckner, public information officer for the SCSO, said the jail’s expeditor has been ramping up her work since COVID-19 became a health concern for group facilities. Currently, the main jail at 201 Poplar is around 70 percent capacity with 2,006 inmates as of Monday. Jail East had a population of about 212 and was around a 55% capacity.

Expeditor Mischelle Best, an attorney and former judge, has been making a difference in the role, particularly with those facing minor charges, those who have relatively low bonds, or those who are medically fragile.

She works closely with the jail’s counseling and medical staff, the District Attorney General and Public Defender, the judiciary and others to determine if there are better programs or placements for certain inmates. (In 2017, a similar position was created in Juvenile Court.)
Every day, she reviews to see who could be released safely and finds them the appropriate place to go.

She checks with jail medical staff and community health providers to see if patients/inmates with serious medical needs could be released to different facilities better equipped to provide for them.

She works with Regional One Health, Memphis Mental Health Institute and other providers to find services for medically fragile inmates. She works with the Tennessee Department of Corrections to ensure dozens of convicted inmates leave the jail every week to head to prison. And she ensures that the cases of those booked with low bonds advance quickly to have an attorney appointed so they can be released.

“Her intervening in many of our challenges in the jail population, the arrested, bonded, and becoming an advocate for expedient court proceedings, bond and release hearings, can only help us in dealing with a daily average of 2,500 inmates in the county jail system,” said Chief Jailer Kirk Fields.

Other updates

Facilities across the county have been issuing updates pertinent to people affected by the current “safer at home” quarantine. Some of the most recent updates include:

BREAKING NEWS: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee recommended Tuesday afternoon that schools remain closed at least through April 24. Lakeland, Arlington and Bartlett public school districts announced that they would comply. Lakeland School System also said it would announce remote learning opportunities by March 27 and offer daily online resources beginning April 1.

Arlington Community Schools has decided to cancel their meal distribution due to coronavirus concerns. The program will be canceled indefinitely.

Catholic Charities of West Tennessee is handing out food boxes via a drive-thru pantry lane at their Jefferson Avenue location in Memphis.

Memphis is holding a three-day “virtual” music festival, starting at 8 p.m. Friday. For details, visit the Facebook page for Memphis Travel.

Music Export Memphis has created a financial relief fund for Memphis musicians who have lost income because of cancellations due to Coronavirus/COVID-19. See details at bit.ly/MEM-COVID-19.