SCS suspends food program after school employee tests positive for coronavirus

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are now 30 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Shelby County, a jump of 20 cases in 24 hours, health officials said.

One of those cases is a central nutrition services employee with Shelby County Schools, Superintendent Joris Ray said.

Because of that, SCS is suspending planned meal preparation and community-wide distribution of meals indefinitely.

SCS received a call Thursday of a possible case, which was confirmed Friday morning. The health department is now working to determine who this employee came in contact with.

During the nutrition program, which was to start Monday, they were preparing for 15,000 meals daily for at-risk students in need. They didn’t know how many would show up.

The worker who tested positive for COVID-19 did not directly handling a food or prep food, but did work in the same facility and that’s why they’re suspending the program.

The person’s last day of work was March 16.

On a normal school day, between breakfast and lunch, SCS preps 150,000 meals.

Ray asked for community help in feeding SCS students while school is out due to coronavirus. He asked supporters to email partnersupport@scsk12.org.

“Corona, you will not defeat us. We are going to be here for the children of Shelby County,” Ray said.

Thankfully, the Mid-South Food Bank is, for now, taking over the program. There won’t be as many pickup locations and the meals won’t be pre-prepared but families will have access to items like frozen meat, fresh produce, breads, vegetables, and fruit. The food bank estimates it can cover about 40 percent of what SCS planned to serve.

“40 percent is better than zero percent,” Mid-South Food Bank President Cathy Pope says.

Other organizations like Impact Church in Frayser are trying to help the community too. The church has been giving out boxes of food since the outbreak and will now increase supplies after the district’s tough announcement.

“More boxes, more food, again, we put in a double order for this week,” pastor Charlie Caswell says.

Dr. Alisa Haushalter with the health department would not confirm whether a school employee was infected.

“We’re beginning to see transmission in different areas,” Haushalter said.

The state of Tennessee now lists 228 confirmed cases statewide, although those numbers do not appear to include the new cases in Shelby County.

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