Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer | WPLN

It took four months to get halfway to 100,000 coronavirus cases in Tennessee but less than four weeks to get the rest of the way. On Wednesday the state’s Department of Health reported 100,822 total cases, up nearly 1,800 from the day before.

The pace of new cases in Tennessee started surging at the end of June. The state hit 50,000 July 4 and crossed 100,000 July 29.

This month, transmission of the virus has become much more widespread with nearly every county over the acceptable threshold set by the Department of Health. That means Nashville and Memphis no longer account for such an outsized share of the new cases.

Damon Mitchell | WPLN (file)

The pandemic’s ripple effects have meant 1.5 million more kids are going hungry, according to a new study in the medical journal Pediatrics. The polling data puts numbers to a food insecurity problem that has been occurring out of sight.

The study is based on national polling of parents with kids under 18. And roughly 2% said that since March, they have become unable to afford all the food they need.

Dr. Stephen Patrick of Vanderbilt University Medical Center is the lead author and says the statistically significant uptick represents 1.5 million children.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

Demand for COVID-19 testing is expected to surge again this week, following the Independence Day holiday and its gatherings of families and friends. And while Tennesseans have been encouraged to get tested, even without symptoms, finding the right testing site has remained a challenge because private providers often won’t test without symptoms.

For many, their first call is to their doctor, but very few primary care practices are offering coronavirus testing in the first place. Many have found it too difficult to maintain infection control and carry on with typical business.

There are some new walk-in clinics that specialize in COVID-19 testing, such as Complete Health Partners, which is offering curbside testing. CVS has even started offering a drive-up option in Tennessee with its Minute Clinics.

TDOH via Twitter

More people in Tennessee are confirmed to have the coronavirus right now than at any point during the pandemic, according to tracking by WPLN News.

The state has also seen an upward trend in new cases and hospitalizations in recent days. About two dozen additional patients enter a hospital each day, statewide.

While there have been more than 26,000 coronavirus cases in Tennessee as of Sunday, most people fully recovered weeks ago. So it’s becoming more important to watch the number of cases considered actively contagious. That number of “active” cases is as high as it’s ever been: 8,741, and it’s been rising for days.

Tony Gonzalez | WPLN News

The state of Tennessee is now allowing restaurants and retail businesses to increase capacity, so long as social-distancing recommendations can still be met.

Starting this weekend, establishments will no longer have capacity restrictions. And entertainment venues can reopen, though they have some very specific guidance that was just released Wednesday afternoon (listed here, like suspending “pop-up” performances that might gather an uncontrollable crowd).

At performance venues, musicians are supposed to be kept 15 feet away from audiences as a sort of spit zone, since singing expels more germs than speaking does.

SRMC via Facebook

Tennessee nurse practitioners hope looser regulations during the pandemic have shown they don’t need a medical doctor checking their work — often for a fee. They’ve battled mandatory chart reviews in the legislature for years.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants were temporarily freed from what they see as merely paperwork oversight in mid-March with Executive Order 15 from Gov. Bill Lee. The sweeping order also relieved advanced practice nurses of site visits from a doctor every 30 days.

“It just calls into question whether this is even needed at all,” says Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s April Kapu, who will soon lead the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

TN Dept. of Health via Twitter

Pandemic modeling from Vanderbilt University finds Tennessee was able to drive down the COVID-19 transmission rate well ahead of the initial projections made on April 10. As a result, the number of people simultaneously hospitalized has plateaued below 300 statewide.

A month ago, even if the state made “continued progress” to slow the spread of the virus, concurrent hospitalizations would have at least hit 1,200 by mid-May. But Vanderbilt modelers say the state started slowing the spread of COVID-19 a month earlier than expected, meaning that on average not every person with a positive case was getting at least one other person sick.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The new coronavirus doesn't discriminate. But physicians in public health and on the front lines say that in the response to the pandemic, they can already see the emergence of familiar patterns of racial and economic bias.

In one analysis, it appears doctors may be less likely to refer African Americans for testing when they show up for care with signs of infection.

Country music icon Kenny Rogers, whose hits included "Lucille," "Lady" and "The Gambler," died late Friday at his home in Sandy Springs, Ga., his family said in a statement. He was 81.

The Houston-born country star had 20 No.-1 hits and three Grammys and performed for some 60 years before retiring from touring in 2017 at age 79, according to the Associated Press.

Rogers didn't write most of his hits and often said he didn't consider himself much of a songwriter. But he told NPR in 2012 that he had a knack for picking songs that could draw in the listener.

Masks, gloves and other equipment are crucial as health care workers face the COVID-19 outbreak. There is a strategic national stockpile that the U.S. government controls — but no one actually knows, beyond that stockpile, what's already out there in the private sector.

Some hospitals have extras, and some not enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on a system that would track the inventory across the U.S.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

Especially this time of year, tornado warnings are not out of the ordinary in Putnam County. But when Terri McWilliams’ phone started buzzing on her nightstand, she decided not to ignore it.

“By the time that warning went off, we had minutes,” she says.

The wind was howling. And then it began to roar.

“We came running down the basement, and my son, who is 17, was the last one, and he had to dive down the stairs because the walls were falling in and the roof was lifting,” McWilliams says. “He was under rubble but was able to climb into the basement.”

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Tornadoes ripped through Nashville, Tenn., and surrounding areas overnight. At least seven residents are confirmed dead, many more injured, and authorities are still trying to map out the full scope of the damage. Blake Farmer from our member station WPLN in Nashville joins us now. Blake, I understand you're out and about. Where exactly are you right now, and what are you seeing?

Chas Sisk | WPLN

Medicaid expansion remains a long shot in Tennessee. But a key lawmaker is pledging to give it a fair hearing this year.

Details of the bill haven’t been finalized, but the legislation, sponsored by a Republican in both the House and Senate, has already been assigned to a subcommittee on TennCare. The panel has just one Democrat, but chairman David Hawk, R-Greeneville, says he will give plenty of time and even allow outside witnesses to testify.

“Issues like that are too important to close debate,” he tells WPLN News. “I want to have as many people who want to talk about the issue to be able to discuss that issue.”

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