Mid-South events monitoring threat of COVID-19 infection

Mid-South events monitoring threat of COVID-19 infection

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - At least one local event has been modified amid COVID-19 concerns. That’s on top of changes area churches are putting in place to keep paritioners safe. It’s possible more event cancellations and modifications could follow.

Opera Memphis was planning to host a live studio audience Thursday for a performance to be broadcast on WKNO. Instead, they’ll perform with nobody in the crowd as a precaution to protect against COVID-19.

“In some ways folks in the opera community are espeically prepared for this kind of thing,” said Ned Canty, CEO of Opera Memphis. "We all tend to be extra cautious. Anybody who has a sniffle tends to practice a little self-isolation.

The Orpheum Memphis told WMC Action News 5 on Wednesday its current performances are moving forward as scheduled.

Beale Street Management said it will host the St. Patrick’s Day parade Saturday, with extra hand-sanitizing stations provided. Similar events around the country have been canceled to prevent close community contact.

“Some of the reasons people are anxious right now is certainly the system working,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Health Care. “We are taking people that were exposed and removing them from the capacity of giving it to someone else.”

Threlkeld said large group cancellations and quarantines are meant to protect the most vulnerable in a population. While doctors hope COVID-19′s spread will lessen as temperatures warm, Threlkeld said it’s too early to say whether that’s the case.

Influenza typically lessens its impact as winter turns to spring and summer. It’s unclear if COVID-19 will behave the same way.

“It’s certainly too early. We should not be counting on that as an outlet,” he said.

Baptist is treating Shelby County’s COVID-19 patient at its Memphis hospital on Walnut Grove Road. Privacy laws prevent what officials can release but Threlkeld said the patient is in good spirits and is doing fairly well.

The Shelby County Health Department said there is no community spread of COVID-19 in the Mid-South, meaning local events for now are not being discouraged. But if the outbreak worsens, that may not be the case.

“We are having conversations with the Memphis in May organization, and those decisions are ultimately made by event planners and elected officials. We will just provide consult as needed,” said Alisa Haushalter, Director of the Shelby County Health Department.

2020′s Beale Street Music Festival is set for the first weekend in May. The event drew more than 100,000 to Tom Lee Park in 2019. Memphis in May officials said Wednesday the event is still a go.

“We are still hearing resources from our local health officials that the risk remains very low in this area. So, we’re still in the planning process for the Beale Street Music Festival, moving full speed ahead with all of our plans. All of our artists are still booked for our lineup,” said Robert Griffin, VP of Marketing, with Memphis in May.

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