Blake Farmer

Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon doesn't exist anymore as a hospital. But it still sued Hope Cantwell.

A knock came on the door of Cantwell's East Nashville apartment early this year. She hadn't been vaccinated yet and says she wasn't really answering the door to strangers. So she didn't.

But then several more attempts came over the course of a week. Eventually she masked up and opened. A legal assistant served her a lawsuit; she was summoned to appear in court.

Shalina Chatlani | WPLN News (File)

COVID hospitalizations have doubled in Tennessee since the Fourth of July — from 195 to 408. It’s a manageable number — given hospitals cared for more than 3,300 COVID patients at one point in January — but a worrying trend in a state with less than 40% of residents fully vaccinated.

The Tennessee Department of Health says 97% of the new COVID cases are among people who had not been vaccinated. And for most of those who get sick after vaccination, like Beth Downey of Nashville did this month, they almost certainly won’t need to be hospitalized. She says her symptoms were mild enough to pass for allergies.

“Due to traveling to see family, I thought just to be safe, go get a COVID test. And lo and behold, it was positive,” she says.

Dollar General

Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, is launching into health care, starting with the hiring of a “chief medical officer.” In its announcement this week, the discount retailer with 17,000 stores hinted at offering in-store services on a large scale.

Industry leader Walmart has already announced plans for thousands of primary care “supercenters” in stores and has been getting approval for in-store clinics in several states. By comparison, Dollar General has smaller stores primarily in more rural communities, which often lack hospitals or even walk-in clinics.

“At Dollar General, we are always looking for new ways to serve, and our customers have told us that they would like to see increased access to affordable healthcare products and services in their communities,” CEO Todd Vasos says in a statement. “Our goal is to build and enhance affordable healthcare offerings for our customers, especially in the rural communities we serve.”

July Fourth was not the celebration President Biden had hoped for when it comes to protecting more Americans with the coronavirus vaccine. The nation fell just short of the White House's goal, which was to give at least a first dose to 70% of adults by Independence Day.


A total of 18 Tennessee school districts have joined litigation against the largest vaping company in the country. They’re expecting settlement money from JUUL Labs to fund anti-vaping programs as they confront clandestine use on a daily basis.

The latest district to join the Tennessee suit is also the largest  — Knox County Schools. In Middle Tennessee, Putnam and Warren counties have also signed on.

“We really look at this as school systems having a lot of — the non-legal term I would use is — a lot to gripe about,” says Chris McCarty of the Lewis Thomason law firm, which is leading the Tennessee case.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

A more infectious strain of the COVID-19 virus, known as the Delta variant, is on the move in Tennessee. The state’s health department has counted about 20 cases so far, concentrated in Shelby County.

The number is almost certainly an undercount since a majority of positive COVID tests are not screened to determine the particular strain. And if they’re not distributed statewide yet, they won’t be isolated for long.

“Just like with any variant, people travel. So will the variant,” says Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health.

The variant, first discovered in India, is turning out to be more contagious and more likely to send people to the hospital. It’s led to a surge of cases in southwest Missouri in recent weeks.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

Tennessee has recorded 908 COVID cases among vaccinated residents. That’s roughly what scientists would have expected, even as they lauded how effective the COVID vaccines are.

By comparison, the state has recorded more than 150,000 COVID cases since anyone was fully vaccinated. So, the so-called “breakthroughs” represent just a fraction of 1% of the total cases, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects that the documented breakthrough cases probably represent an undercount. Most people who’ve been vaccinated likely wouldn’t show any symptoms and have no reason to get tested.

Fourteen people have died after getting the vaccines, but Dr. David Aronoff, director of infectious disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says other factors were likely in play.

TN Photo Services

Tennessee’s governor is urging school districts to drop their mask requirements, even though most children remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Many school districts in Middle Tennessee are starting to reconsider their mask requirements — or at least they feel pressure from parents. Gov. Bill Lee says each district makes its own policies, but he’s hopeful they remove the requirement for face coverings.

“Science shows that children have very low risk for contracting COVID and for actually being sick as a result of it,” Lee told reporters on Monday, “so I’m hopeful that schools will make the decision not to require masks for their districts.”

Worship online just isn't the same, even after a year of getting used to it. Yet widespread vaccinations haven't resolved all the questions of how to gather again, despite the eagerness of congregants to see each other again.

Churches have even upped their production quality. In a video produced for Facebook, the choir at the Temple Church in Nashville sings, spaced out, in the parking lot. Members like 73-year-old Rogers Buchanan watch the stream from their couches.

Shalina Chatlani | WPLN News (file)

Tennessee’s electric utility is starting the long process that could eventually lead to closure of its most-polluting coal plant.

Tennessee Valley Authority Jeff Lyash has already announced this month that it plans to end all coal power generation by 2035. And TVA spokesman Scott Brooks says the utility is beginning the preliminary review with the Cumberland Fossil Plant in Stewart County, which has two separate coal-fired units.

“These are the two largest coal units we have in our fleet,” Brooks says. “So if there’s any logic to it, it would make sense that we would start with our two largest units.”

The Cumberland plant produces enough power for more than 1 million homes. It also releases 8 million tons of carbon emissions into the air each year, as well as especially high mercury releases into the Cumberland River, according to the Sierra Club of Tennessee.

On a sloppy spring day in mid-March, hundreds of Kurdish Americans gathered in a field outside Nashville, Tenn., under a sea of black umbrellas. Some of the men carried a stretcher to an open grave, where a yellow backhoe waited.

In accordance with Muslim tradition, the body of Imad Doski — a prominent community leader — was buried within 24 hours of his death. He was another casualty of COVID-19.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

Just a handful of patients who tested positive for COVID at Vanderbilt University Medical Center this year were fully vaccinated.

The hospital system found four patients who should have had their full immunity, which comes two weeks after the last dose. One of them died, though not from COVID, VUMC says in a release. Some of the others had mild symptoms and were being treated for other illnesses.

“For anyone who has hesitated to get vaccinated against COVID-19, these hospital admissions data can’t help but paint a very clear picture,” says Dr. Tom Talbot, VUMC’s chief epidemiologist.

Vaccinations in Tennessee have been tapering off, and the state already had among the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

Dank Depot Marijuana via Flickr

A proposal to introduce medical marijuana in Tennessee has been voted down in the legislature, failing by a single vote in a House committee. While many Republicans have come around on cannabis, a majority say they’re still concerned about conflicting with federal law.

Even as all but a handful of states have legalized medical marijuana, it’s still considered a Schedule 1 street drug, along with heroin and meth. And so long as the Drug Enforcement Agency sees cannabis as illegal, Gov. Bill Lee will oppose it, says his legislative liaison Callon Schmid. Asked if he would have vetoed the measure, she didn’t say.

“He has been consistent in his position that until the federal government reschedules this drug, he is opposed to doing anything at the state level,” she told the House Civil Justice committee Tuesday afternoon, near the start of a two-hour debate.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit


The teachers at New Hope Academy in Franklin, Tenn., were chatting the other day. The private Christian school has met in person throughout much of the coronavirus pandemic — requiring masks and trying to keep kids apart, to the degree it is possible with young children. And Nicole Grayson, who teaches fourth grade, says they realized something peculiar.

"We don't know anybody that has gotten the flu," she says. "I don't know of a student that has gotten strep throat."