The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, along with the Town of Collierville, presented “The Next Normal and Beyond” a Community Forum in the Pickler Auditorium at Collierville High School on Thursday, June 25. The community forum focused on the challenges that the Collierville community has faced and continues to face from COVID-19. The forum was hosted by Collierville Schools.
Mark Heuberger, President and CEO of the Collierville Chamber of Commerce, began the morning’s event by welcoming attendees and thanking the Chamber’s premier partners who sponsored the event: FedEx; the UTHSC Foundation; Alston Construction; International Paper; Mueller Industries; Baptist Hospital; Carrier; First Horizon and Orgill.
The school’s auditorium reflected the awareness of social distancing, as a limited number of attendees sat well apart within the large auditorium, and masks adorned faces throughout the morning’s program.
David Pickler of Pickler Wealth Companies and board member of the Chamber commented on the symbolic nature of the day’s venue, recognizing “a building that symbolizes our community’s future and our commitment to public education – an essential element of our world.”
Featured speakers represented several areas involved or impacted by COVID-19.
Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner offered a glimpse into the effect COVID-19 has had on the town and the continual requirements of maintaining lines of communication among county municipalities and the Shelby County Health Department.
- Collierville has had to postpone major events celebrating the town’s 150th anniversary but is hopeful that the annual Christmas on the Square and holiday parade will be held.
- While sales and total revenues have been impacted, the town continues to maintain its AAA bond rating.
- There continues to be great sharing of information among the Shelby County Health Department and all municipalities.
- While testing positivity rate is generally lower than normal in the area, the positivity rate has recently gone up, so vigilance is required, and the area remains at Phase 2 protocols.
- All decisions regarding COVID are made with consultation of the Health Department and are backed by data.
Kevin Vaughn, State Representative District 95 addressed the issues from a state legislature point.
- Running the state is like running a $40 billion company
- Decisions must be balanced with an eye to maintaining personal liberties
- Constantly checking the governor’s actions to continue the balance of powers
- Unemployment claims have had a huge impact on the state’s revenues
- The state’s new budget continues to be balanced.
David Bradford, Shelby County Commissioner representing the Town of Collierville and a Collierville resident, commented on the challenges facing the county and the work that the Commission has undertaken to address vital issues while still focusing their attention to the budget.
- The Shelby County Commission has put in long hours addressing revenue shortfalls due to COVID while still meeting the demands of the county.
- The new budget will see no rise in property taxes and vehicle registration fees
- The County will continue to look to the Shelby County Health Department for guidance and recommendations.
Dr. Gary Lilly, Superintendent Collierville Schools, addressed some of the steps taken to address educational needs during the truncated 2019-2020 school year. He then addressed three possible scenarios for the upcoming year.
- Schools would remain closed and all learning would be done via one-on-one with computers. The school district has a plan to address needs of students without one-on-one capacity.
- Schools would operate with limited capacities with enhanced safety protocols.
- Schools would re-open fully, with great attention paid to enhanced safety procedures, and would accommodate for special needs students.
- Dr. Lilly suggested that the best-case scenario would be the ability to re-open all schools in the fall, resuming normal operations with added safety measures.
Jimmy Turner of Christian Brothers Automotive and James Taras of Jim’s Place Grille addressed needs and issues faced by small businesses and related specific examples from their own businesses.
- Christian Brothers Automotive faced a significant drop in business immediately after COVID protocols were in place, but as an essential service were able to maintain their full staff.
- Christian Brothers took immediate steps to apply for a small business loan and received funding quickly, allowing for them to maintain their staff with no reduction in compensation to their employees.
Jim’s Place Grille went from their standard full capacity dining areas to thinking like a “fast-food” restaurant when it came to operations – offering full meal packages and take-out.
- After re-opening, they have faced new challenges with social distancing, but have taken steps to ensure safety and comfort for their guests.
- Jim’s Place Grille expanded their floor-to-ceiling cleaning operations, even hiring a professional crew as needed.
Harold Byrd of the Bank of Bartlett addressed the financial community’s assistance to businesses as they navigated the new challenges and existing loan opportunities.
- Communities and their businesses have faced similar challenges in the past, as in the Yellow Fever epidemic throughout the Mid-South in the 1870s and later during the Spanish Flu in the 20th century and came back strong as communities.
- Massive amounts of dollars have been funneled into local communities via federal initiatives and have been administered by the local banking community.
- The average small business loan has been for $110,000 (est.)
Dr. Jon McCullers of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and a member of the City-County Task on COVID offered an update on relevant treatment protocols and the potential for a vaccine.
- A greater number of young people (20 – 30) are being hospitalized.
- The disease is age-related with those over 55 facing the most serious issues.
- Young children seem to have less incidence of transmission and are less affected by the disease.
As to treatment protocols and possibilities of vaccine:
- Treatment may use a variety of procedures, all dependent on the specific issues the disease presents.
- Treatment may include the use of steroids; convalescent plasma antibodies transfusions; designer-antibodies therapy and anti-viral therapy.
- Vaccines are extremely difficult to create and must be examined for potential side effects.
- Vaccines may not be totally effective.
- The use of vaccines for large populations such as the United States requires massive manufacturing requirements taking additional time to get to the general population.
- Three major clinical trials will come to Memphis.
- Vaccines could be possible by early 2021 into the spring, contingent on clinical trials, testing and manufacturing.
“This was an outstanding event,” said Chuck Thomas, AT&T Regional Director of External & Legislative Affairs. “Very timely with quality information among an audience of impact leaders from the community.”