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COVID-19 update

Vaccines. The COVID vaccination process has begun. Information about eligibility categories and scheduling is available at the Tennessee Department of Health and the Shelby County Health Department.

In Shelby County, 24,000 people have been vaccinated, but few are very happy about the pace so far. All appointments for January have been filled and some await second doses. Older constituents and their family members are frustrated that no waitlist has been prepared, and it has been difficult to follow the process.

Variants. Multiple COVID-19 variants are circulating around the globe and are said to be more contagious. Officials worry the UK variant could fuel case spikes.

New strains originating in the U.S. were discovered by researchers a week after White House officials warned of them and such warnings were dismissed by the CDC and the New York Times as “false reports.”

Strategy. An international study of lockdown measures and business closures reveals no clear benefit over other voluntary measures. But where lockdowns and mask mandates have failed, rapid at-home testing could make a difference.

Below we check in on the local numbers, state rankings, and take a final look at U.S. fatalities in 2020. All local data used comes from the Shelby County Health Department.

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COVID-19 update

A COVID-19 vaccine is on the way.

The FDA gave emergency use authorization to a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

FedEx has started the delivery process, thanks to Operation Warp Speed.

Healthcare professionals will be the first in line for the vaccine, which is great considering they are some of the most vulnerable workers.

This news comes the same day new cases hit a record 930 in Shelby County.

Below we check in on the local numbers. All data used comes from the Shelby County Health Department.

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Issues

Freezing out taxpayers

Our friends at The Beacon Center are out with their latest research on government waste: 2020 Pork Report.

Item number six on their list is the hiring freeze in Shelby County government. I appreciate the attention to our budget predicament, but some additional context is warranted.

Below is the section dealing with the Shelby County hiring freeze.

I believe this is a reference to the hiring freeze put in place during the first meeting of this current fiscal year. That measure was introduced on July 13 by then-Chairman Mark Billingsley and received unanimous support.

Here’s that resolution:

As you’ll notice in the highlighted portion of the resolution, there was a provision allowing for “necessary exceptions.”

Those exceptions began to be brought forward immediately, some of them occurring in the very same meeting. Additional exceptions were considered by the commission in the next several meetings.

Some members of the board considered these exceptions to be out of line with the “freeze” policy, and eventually the vast majority of commissioners lost their patience with the process and were ready to lift it.

In the September 28 meeting, there were two dueling resolutions on the agenda. One resolution lifted the freeze altogether. Because I worked to put together a compromise, that resolution was withdrawn.

The other resolution, which I introduced and sponsored with two other commissioners, merely changed the composition of the hiring freeze committee.

Instead of coming before the commission, exceptions would be approved by executives in the mayor’s administration and other elected offices.

This resolution passed, 11-1, and remains in effect to this day.

Furthermore, for additional context, there was already a hiring freeze in place earlier in the calendar year.

I introduced that resolution and sponsored it along with Commissioner Morrison. It was approved on April 20 by a vote of 7-4.

All that said, I agree with the Beacon Center that local government needs to be responsible with your tax dollars and curb the growth of spending.

We will need to remain especially vigilant in the year ahead.

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COVID-19 update

National lockdown. A member of the Biden coronavirus task force says a 4-to-6 week lockdown “could get the pandemic under control in time for a vaccine.” During the campaign, Biden said he would “shut down the virus, not the country.” The AP says Biden faces a “tough choice.”

Vaccine inadequacy. Dr. Fauci says social distancing and masks will be needed even after a vaccine is available.

Mask protection. Updated guidance released by the CDC on Tuesday says masks also protect mask wearers, not just those around them, by providing “filtration for personal protection.” The new guidance cites studies showing that masks reduce the risk of transmitting or catching the virus by more than 70%.

Vanderbilt study. A study by The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine shows Tennessee counties without mask mandates have higher COVID-19 death rates. The report stresses that this is a correlation and “the observed relationships between hospitalizations, deaths, and mask requirements is about a set of behaviors, including but not limited to masking.”

Also in the news this week:

  • The City of Germantown voted 3-2 to ask Gov. Lee for a statewide mandate.
  • The $51 million field hospital in Memphis is “ready,” except for the medical staff who would be needed to run it; there aren’t enough nurses.
  • Study: Temperature checks, symptom screenings not very effective in detecting COVID-19 infections
  • The Shelby County Health Department had to close facilities after positive COVID-19 cases among employees.

This week. Below we check in on the local numbers.

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Issues

COVID-19 update

Pandemic continues. While the nation shifted its attention to the federal election this week, COVID-19 metrics sharply increased both in the United States and around the world.

No gatherings. The White House is asking Tennesseans and citizens in other “red zone” states to avoid gatherings with others outside of their immediate household.

Vascular disease. Scientists continue to research the effects of COVID on blood vessels.

Blame game. This week the Daily Memphian‘s Jane Roberts finds a new local source of spread: nurses, “who may be passing the disease to each other when they let their guard down outside patient rooms.”

Pool testing. Memphis restaurants and businesses will participate in an asymptomatic mass testing program.

Rapid testing. Action News 5 did a scan of Memphis locations looking for sites offering rapid tests.

G-town Grinch. The City of Germantown cancelled Christmas and joined the calls for a statewide mask mandate.

Better masks. Harvard Business Review says essential workers need better masks. Ask yourself why.

This week: Below, we check in on the local numbers.