Tennessee

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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Mass testing at two Tennessee prisons has uncovered nearly 2,000 cases of the coronavirus behind bars so far.

Officials have repeatedly said most inmates who have tested positive are not showing symptoms. But some health experts are cautioning prisons to prepare for that to change.

When the Tennessee Department of Correction first reported that 162 inmates at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex had tested positive for the coronavirus on Apr. 20, officials said the “vast majority” were asymptomatic.

 


WPLN News

The Tennessee Education Savings Account law — Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher initiative — was declared unconstitutional on Monday evening by a Nashville chancellor.

At the center of the lawsuit, brought by Davidson and Shelby counties against the Tennessee Department of Education, was the interpretation of the state constitution’s Home Rule Amendment. The plaintiffs claimed that the school voucher law was unconstitutional because it singled out two counties without their consent.

Chris Wood, an attorney for the plaintiffs, celebrated the decision.

WPLN News

Liquor stores and breweries have been considered essential business in Tennessee throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

But just because they have remained operational, it doesn’t mean they are doing well. They have had to change how they do business in order to survive.

In late February, Southern Grist Brewing Company celebrated its anniversary of making some of the most experimental beer in the market.

Kevin Antoon, the founder, remembered the magnitude of the event. He said it’s unlikely to be repeated anytime soon.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

A mild case of coronavirus was discovered in Nashville over the weekend, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the state up to three.

Health officials say the case was expected and are preparing for more positive cases as they test more people. They told residents not to panic.

How the woman, a Nashville resident, contracted the virus is unclear, but she had not traveled recently, health officials say.

“Now, this obviously comes at a time when Nashville wants and needs to give each other a big hug. Deserves to give each other a big hug,” says Nashville Mayor John Cooper. “And we still need to do that. Public Health will be talking about how we do that safely, with the best practices to keep our community safe.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán/WPLN News

The first case of coronavirus has made its way to Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday.

“As of last night we have our first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Tennessee,” Lee said.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said the patient is a 44-year-old man who lives in Williamson County. Piercey said he’d traveled out of state recently — but not internationally — and has been back in Tennessee for four to five days.

“We have been anticipating identification of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee,” Piercey said. “We are now working closely with the CDC and local health care partners to identify this patient’s contacts and contain the spread of this disease in our community.”

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.”

Early Tuesday morning, a tornado ripped through Nashville and greater middle Tennessee, causing extensive destruction to homes and businesses and claiming the lives of 24 people across four counties. While not the only neighborhood to sustain widespread damage, East Nashville was hit particularly hard, delivering a harsh blow to the city's vibrant music and arts communities.

Updated 9:20 p.m. ET

Tornadoes gashed through central Tennessee early Tuesday, with the worst damage concentrated in and around Nashville. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says at least 24 people were killed across four counties, and there are fears the death toll could climb as first responders continue to search for victims.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

About 337,000 Tennesseans have so far cast their ballots for this year’s presidential primaries, a dip from 2016 when both parties had competitive races.

But it’s a marked increase from early voting in 2012, the last cycle that featured an incumbent president.

According to data from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, the early voting period that wrapped up this week saw nearly as many Republicans as Democrats casting ballots — even though President Donald Trump faces no serious competition.

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.”

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

A Republican lawmaker wants a monument representative of the civil rights movement to be erected in the state Capitol.

Rep. Sabi Kumar, R-Springfield, told the State Capitol Commission Thursday that this is meant to unite Tennesseans who are divided over the Capitol bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“Let us tell the full story so people coming to the Capitol will have an experience that is really a museum experience that tells the full story from Civil War to civil rights and the heroes on both side that we have,” Kumar said.

Chas Sisk | WPLN

Early voting for the presidential primary starts Wednesday in Tennessee.

Republican and Democratic voters will see multiple options on their ballots, but not all of them are still in the race.

GOP voters will have the opportunity to choose from President Donald Trump, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh. That last candidate dropped out of the race recently.

Republicans will also have the opportunity to vote for delegates for the national convention.

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