Sunday, March 29, 2020

Germantown and COVID 19

COVID 19 is now the talk of the world, but hopefully soon it will be just a bad memory. Hold onto that thought while I muse on the effects on our City. First of all, looking at a map of diagnosed cases in the county, the hot spots for the virus center on East Memphis and Germantown. Whether that is because we travel more than people in other parts of the County, or merely have greater access to testing, is yet to be determined. But in any case, take care out there.

The newspapers have done a great job with local stories, which I link below-- what do you want to hear first, the good, the bad, or the ugly?

Since Kroger is such a big chain here, I will start with the wild-cat strike at the Kroger distribution center. The company generally has a difficult time keeping things stocked, and this surely won't help. This is also a reminder that our gratitude needs to go out to all the workers that keep our City functioning, albeit at a lower level than normal  I pray for a full recovery of the person with COVID 19, and wish our Kroger employees the best. All the while I am crossing my fingers that this will not disrupt the already fragile food delivery systems.  

Memphis Teamsters Wildcat Strike at Kroger’s Crucial Southern Warehouse 

There are also a couple of feel-good stories coming from our area. I have to hand it to the Java Cafe owner who ordered N95 masks for his employees before most people even heard of coronavirus. If only he had a high position in the federal government! For those who say he should turn them over to hospitals, well, I disagree. Having food prepared by people wearing N95 masks serves a public health purpose. His stash would not make a dent in even an hours' worth of need for masks at hospitals, and in the meantime lots of people can order food that is unlikely to be contaminated.

Germantown Cafe takes extra measures to protect employees, customers 

On to a story about a couple of Dogwood teachers who are  neighbors in Poplar Estates, written by Geoff Calkins, the award winning sports reporter at the Daily Memphian.  Somehow I knew he would come up with some great coronavirus public interest stories. Who else could find the deeper meaning in the jokes fashioned out of construction paper and put in the window panes? I may search out these homes.

In a time of pandemic, Can Construction Paper Save us All?  

Abigail Warren reports that all City-employed part-time workers have been fired. Ms. Warren says she hates stories like this, and I certainly understand that. The employees were notified by letter this past week. Mayor Palazzolo could not be reached for comment. If I could interview Mayor Palazzolo, I would inquire whether senior employees were going to give up their vacation buybacks, which allows them to take not only two weeks of actual vacation time, but up to two weeks of extra pay, depending on years of service. All those perks would probably save the City a lot more money than taking the jobs away from the people who need them the most. 

Germantown Lays Off Part-Time Employees

I am sure I missed a lot of other interesting local coronavirus stories. Please mention any other ones in the comments. I would like to see how more stories on the availability of hospital supplies here. The national stories are horrifiying. Without mentioning names or particular hospitals, I know of an ICU nurse here who has chronic asthma who was given a coronavirus patient and no mask. Now N95 masks at the hospital are being reused with regular filters on top. The N95 masks underneath are not changed for several days. That seems unhealthy both for the nurses and the patients they serve. This is anecdotal but I would welcome a real news story on it. 

The Future


Our City has decisions to make, and it looks like laying off part-time employees was the first one. How will this affect us economically? Obviously this depends on the length of the quarantine, and the subsequent behavior of the citizens. Right now this is costing us sales-tax dollars, and probable loss of value of the employee pension fund. The City was already in the midst of making up a shortfall in pension funds, and this epidemic is quite unhelpful. In Memphis, Mayor Strickland has said to expect a cutback in services. Where will Germantown cut? Will we still plan to buy athletic fields for regional tournaments? I have always thought that was an unneeded boondoggle, meant to prop up development interests in the City. What about our multi-year plan to address drainage issues?  Will the water tower go forward? Will GPAC need yet more subsidies?

More importantly, how will this affect major developments being planned around town? I have already warned of the overbuilding of hotels in the area. I doubt they will have much business for the foreseeable future. Will this affect bank lending for various projects? Will the new "work at home" initiatives become a permanent fixture, limiting the need for new office construction? Will on-line ordering trends become so great that retail space is not needed?

And, it could even be a blow to the heart of "live, work and play".  Dense development is an admitted cause of the rapid spread of the coronavirus in New York City. Germantown has "health" as one of the top goals in its 2030 plan. Right now a home with a backyard seems a lot healthier than an apartment with common spaces.

According to New York Governor Cuomo, quoted in Politico

"We have one of the most dense, close environments in the country," he said Wednesday. "And that's why the virus communicated the way it did. Our closeness makes us vulnerable."

Fresh air and sunshine are good for those with influenza viruses. Even here in Shelby County there are threats of closing the parks. Single family housing seems like the best idea for healthy living in the future.

Stay well!

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