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.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Dr. Deborah Birx told reporters Monday that Tennessee could be in a good position to battle the latest wave of COVID-19.

The White House coronavirus response coordinator said the main way to accomplish this is for Tennesseans to wear masks and the state to shut down its bars.


Birx met with Gov. Bill Lee, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and other state leaders to discus her concerns about the latest increase in coronavirus cases across the state.

After the meeting, Birx told reporters she was particularly worried about rural counties.

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.


Later this month, Vanderbilt University Medical Center will start enlisting 1,000 volunteers for a COVID-19 vaccine trial.

The university said Wednesday the vaccine was developed by Moderna Inc. in collaboration with the Vaccine Research Center of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“We are pressing full speed ahead to provide an answer to this pandemic, while also taking the necessary steps to ensure that new vaccines and therapeutic drugs are both safe and effective,” said Buddy Creech, the director of Vanderbilt’s Vaccine Research Program.

Courtesy Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook

Tennessee’s newest restriction on abortions saw two major — and opposing — developments Monday.

Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

“With the signature of this bill,” Lee said during the Facebook Live event, with a blue Sharpie in hand, “Tennessee is one of the most pro-life states in America.”

However, less than an hour later, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect, citing the law placed “undue burden” on people seeking pre-viability abortions. The measure aims to prohibit abortions starting at around six weeks. That’s before most people know they’re pregnant, effectively blocking most abortions.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

After hearing impassioned speeches from Black lawmakers, the Tennessee State Capitol Commission voted for the first time to remove the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

And, in a last-minute vote, the group also voted to take out two other military figures from the capitol’s second floor.

The initial proposal — of removing Forrest— has been championed by Black Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, for years, as well as by activists.

“These monuments represent the values that unite us and the moral principles that guide our society,” Gilmore told the panel. “Nathan Beford Forrest does not represent the values of Tennessee.”

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

For the first time, Tennessee’s State Capitol Commission is likely to vote for the removal of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The monument to the Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan grand wizard has been inside the building since 1978.

Gov. Bill Lee is scheduled to address the panel Thursday. It’s unclear if Lee will openly say whether he supports the removal of the Forrest bust.

Last week, he told reporters he wanted to follow the process laid out in state law when removing a monument.

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.

Tennessee officials are expected to take the first step toward removing the bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from inside the Capitol.

Gov. Bill Lee says he will convene the State Capitol Commission to meet and vote next week.

Tennessee law gives the commission the first say on the bust, but even if it supports removal, there’s no guarantee it would move. It would set up a much lengthier review by the Tennessee Historical Commission — deliberations that Lee says he support.

“This process is the opposite of the mob rule that unfortunately has been dominating the national headlines around historical displays,” he says. “I have confidence that our process here in Tennessee, with the capitol commission, will be fair and representative of Tennesseans.”

Creative Commons

A U.S. Supreme Court decision is being described as a “small victory” for abortion rights supporters in Tennessee, and it’s causing a leading anti-abortion group to call for a reset on opponents’ strategy.

The court ruled Monday that doctors do not have admitting privileges at a local hospital, striking down a Louisiana law. Tennessee has had a similar measure on the books since 2012, but it hasn’t been enforced for the past four years, when the Supreme Court struck down the same law in Texas.

Ashley Coffield, the president of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, told WPLN News the decision shows the highest court won’t support extreme measures to ban abortion.

Tony Gonzalez | WPLN News

Tennessee’s Supreme Court says it wants to eliminate racial discrimination in the state’s judicial system. A new initiative follows the recent groundswell of protests against systemic racism in policing.

But accusations of racial bias are not new in Tennessee’s court system.

As far back as 1997, a report by the Supreme Court’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness found multiple examples of discrimination, including harsher sentences for minority defendants.

Mika Baumeister via Unsplash

Another state of emergency is being issued in Wilson County, located just east of Nashville, after a surge in COVID-19 cases in that northern Tennessee county. Officials say there have been 15 deaths since May 12.

According to the mayor’s office, the 14-day daily average of new cases was 6.9 on June 1. That number has since increased to 11.4, as of Tuesday, so people will now be required to wear masks in public.

“We want people to say safe as they consume activities,” says Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, in a press release.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

In a late-night, last-minute vote, the Tennessee Senate passed what would become one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the country.

The measure (SB2196/HB2263) had been championed by Gov. Bill Lee, although he said it was not a priority once the coronavirus pandemic struck in the state.

The measure would ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity has been detected — which happens about six weeks in the pregnancy.

The House voted on the measure Thursday morning, even as Republican leaders in the Senate were saying they would not pick it up because it was not related to the budget or the pandemic.

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.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Tennessee is sending about 1,000 National Guardsmen to Washington, D.C., to assist in the protests.

The nation’s capital has seen rioting as well as peaceful demonstrations against police brutality.

The announcement, made by Tennessee National Guard General Jeff Holmes on Tuesday, comes a day after guardsmen put down their riot shields at a peaceful rally against police brutality in Nashville.