MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mayor Lee Harris announced a partnership with Memphis Light, Gas and Water which will provide utility assistance to some 1,400 customers negatively impacted by the pandemic over the holidays.
Harris made the announcement during the Memphis/Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force meeting Tuesday.
Those selected as recipients of the Utility Holiday program had previously opted into MLGW’s Deferred Billing COVID-19 payment plan and owed less than $500. Each of these customers were credited $185 to go towards their outstanding bill.
“The risk of losing your utilities or falling too far behind to catch up is one of the terrible fallouts from this pandemic,” said Harris. “Our Utility Holiday program will provide utility assistance to hundreds and hundreds of families in Shelby County who previously told MLGW that they were facing hardship. For around 1,400 families, the assistance will just appear on their bill, without any additional effort from these families. During this difficult time, we must be determined to not let the pandemic steal our joy. We hope that the notice that these families will receive soon will be a welcome holiday surprise.”
According to the mayor, Shelby County set aside more than $257,000 of CARES Act funding to cover the costs.
According to the latest data from the Shelby County Health Department, 45,952 tests have come back positive since mid-March. That’s an increase of 377 cases in the last 24 hours.
There have been 637 deaths, with two of those being reported since Monday. The Shelby County Health Department says there are 4,178 active cases.
As of Monday, there are currently 410 COVID-19 positive patients being treated at hospitals in Shelby County. That is of note for health officials because, combined with the non-COVID patients, hospitals are currently operating at 89 percent utilization when it comes to acute care. In the ICU departments, it’s 89 percent.
Health officials are concerned there could be a spike of coronavirus cases during this holiday season.
“We do anticipate that there will be a potential for a surge at the holiday at the holiday season,” Alisa Haushalter, the director of the Shelby County Health Department, said.
Haushalter provided clarification about the county’s health directive and recommendations for schools and places of worship.
“We recommend virtual worships and that’s been consistent communication that we’ve had and stressing that more now that we have a surge and recommend schools take a pause for extracurricular activities,” Haushalter said.
Additionally, health officials said people who go to gyms must wear masks as well, to stop the spread of the virus.
There are now more people hospitalized than there were back in July when Shelby County hit a second peak in cases.
There is also concern regarding hospital staffing especially with hospitals having medical staff in isolation and quarantine.
The projection for the hospital census is around 514 for Christmas day. If the trend continues, it’s expected that hospitals could see 664 in hospitals on March 1.
The weekly test positivity rate has increased to 11.1 percent.
A vaccine is expected to arrive after December 15. Healthcare workers, first responders and those in the hospital with chronic co-morbidities will be given the vaccine first. Other healthcare workers, home health staff, public health staff, testing site staff and adults with high risk conditions would be next.