A year later: Memphis, Mid-South adapt to the new normal from the COVID-19 pandemic

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —It’ll be one year Monday since Shelby County leaders reported the first COVID-19 case in the county.

Since then, the county, along with the rest of the world, has gone through a world wind of changes. Now a year later, Beale Street, like all other places across the Mid-South look much different than it did a year ago.

On this day one year ago it was actually a Saturday night. People were gathering in much larger crowds, and the thought of even wearing a mask everywhere was not on anyone’s mind.

But people we spoke to told us they could never imagine what would be waiting for them the next day.

“Although this is a very serious environment, we don’t believe there is a need to panic,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, said.

On March 8, 2020, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris stood beside health officials and announced the first case of COVID-19 in the county.

Residents across the Mid-South recalled what they remembered when the pandemic began.

At what point did you realize this virus was real?

“Yea, when they shut down. You came down here and didn’t see nobody on Beale,” Brandon White, a Shelby County resident, said.

Businesses closed. Schools went online. People were encouraged to stay away from loved ones and toilet paper was in high demand.

March 8th marked the beginning of what would soon be known as “The new normal.”

“It was crazy. Everybody was scared running to stores trying to see what’s going on. What’s this thing, coronavirus? Our life is going to change,” said Tamara Giles, who lives In Shelby County.

“I’m a dental student in Memphis, and we went for spring break, and we had patients before spring break, and we never came back,” said county resident Camella Card.

More than 88,000 people in Shelby County got the virus and 1,527 lost their lives. Mid-South hospitals were reaching capacity.

Restrictions were placed on the economy in order to control the growing case count, but as a result, unemployment reached record highs and crime skyrocketed.

“All together I was out of work for four months. Thankfully, I’m working again,” Nate Illsley, who lives in Shelby County, said.

But while there were plenty of dark days for many, others were able to find a light.

“COVID hit and it made me get laid off. It kind of made me start my own business, and I started actually making more money,” said county resident Jalen Ready.

“I’ve lost a couple family members due to COVID, but it just made me more determined, more focused,” said Jacretia Porter, who lives in Shelby County.

It was that determination that pushed so many to do what they could to try to rid the community of the virus.

And now with several vaccines making their way through the community and the economy slowly reopening, several people we spoke to tell us they’re looking forward to the next year.

“I have a resilient mentality and that’s how I’ve been pushing forward,” Nate Illsley said.

Now doctors say while things may appear to be looking up, we are not out the clear just yet.
You’re still encouraged to wear a mask and social distance.

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