State, local leaders discuss increasing cases, community effect of coronavirus

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local leaders gathered Friday afternoon to discuss the increasing number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Tennessee.

State representative Antonio Parkinson emphasized how quickly the coronavirus is spreading through the state.

“We are in uncharted territory, uncharted space, I think . . . for anyone that has lived in this lifetime, that is still alive today in the United States,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson said Tennessee simply isn’t prepared to handle the pandemic.

“We have, honestly, been caught behind the eight ball, so to speak, as this thing is coming into Tennessee, and citizens of Tennessee are being affected,” Parkinson said.

Parkinson says he’s asking Gov. Bill Lee to take quick action on several key fronts: expand Medicaid, even if on a temporary basis; streamline access to insurance and food stamps; and approve emergency unemployment benefits for workers who have been told to self-quarantine or may have contracted the virus and can’t work.

There are still questions about how Shelby County Schools will handle the pandemic if schools are forced to stay closed past the extended spring break. Free meals and educational assistance are issues SCS will likely also turn to Nashville for assistance with.

“As a board, we do not want to wait till that happens to work out a plan. We want that plan to be enacted now,” SCS Board member Stephanie Love said.

There are also concerns about how the virus will affect church attendance this weekend.

At Golden Gate Cathedral in Raleigh, crews have been deep cleaning the sanctuary for weeks, but the church’s bishop says he’s never seen anything like this before. He urges worshipers across the community to use their best judgment.

“I’m saying ‘Praise God’ if everything is healed and we’ve got a vaccine next week — glory,” Bishop Ed Stephens, Jr., said. “But, what if not? That’s all I’m saying. It’s not a fear tactic, but it’s a reality of where we are and what all the data is saying.”

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