Tennessee

Putnam Co.

Tennessee is lowering the threshold to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to age 70.

The state Department of Health estimates that the change means about 300,000 Tennesseans between 70 and 74 will now be eligible to get inoculated.

The age group is about 70% more likely to die and 40% more likely to be hospitalized than those aged 65 to 69. Dr. Lisa Piercey, the state’s health chief, says those data points led to changing the state’s distribution plan, which originally would have made all people 65 and up eligible this month.

Tennessee now hopes to make the vaccine to all people 65 and older as soon as March, if vaccine supplies increase.

Blake Farmer | WPLN

A study that’s causing public health officials to grow more concerned about COVID spreading between loved ones is based primarily on families in Nashville. Researchers hope it’ll reveal the most common ways relatives and roommates get each other sick.

The existing research on household transmission of COVID-19, like this study from New York, mostly relies on looking back at contact tracing data, which can have big holes. So Dr. Carlos Grijalva, a Vanderbilt University epidemiologist, decided he would create his own data set.

His research team has now followed nearly 200 households, mostly in Nashville with some also with a research site in Wisconsin. When one person gets sick, they get consent from the patient and members of the household, then begin interviewing them and taking nasal swabs and collecting saliva for 14 days.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday he is signing two executive orders that repeal all COVID-19-related restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes in 89 counties across the state, and he’s encouraging the remaining six large counties not covered by those orders to do the same.

But, Lee also said he is extending the state of emergency through October. He said that has given the state the flexibility to respond faster to the pandemic.

“I think we have taken one of the most targeted approaches to the pandemic — eliminated the need of prolonged business closures or prolonged school closures,” Lee told reporters.

 

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

For the second time, Gov. Bill Lee has changed his position on whether the state should release information regarding cases of COVID-19 in schools.

At a press conference Tuesday, Lee told reporters the state is erring on the side of privacy.

“It’s a balance,” Lee said. “It’s really important that people in a school district can’t figure out which children individually have a case.”

During the press conference, Lee and Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey initially cited federal health privacy laws — known as HIPAA — as a reason for not sharing data on school districts experiencing outbreaks or positive cases.

WPLN News

Non-essential businesses across the state have been ordered to close as part of Gov. Bill Lee’s latest executive order.

Lee says this will strengthen the recommended social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But the governor stopped short of requiring people to stay at home.

“This is not a mandate for people to shelter in place,” Lee told reporters in a videoconference Monday. “This is an urging for citizens to not utilize non-essential businesses.”

Chas Sisk | WPLN

State officials say a group of embattled charter schools in Antioch should remain open — at least for now.

Knowledge Academies, which runs two middle schools and a high school, is appealing an order from Metro Nashville Public Schools to shut down by the end of the year. Local officials cite claims of fraud and poor academic performance.

 

But staffers at the state level say there's not enough evidence to shut it down, so they're instead recommending probation.

Unsealed Lawsuit in Tennessee: Opioid Firm Placed Profits Over People

Jul 6, 2018
Creative Commons

A newly unsealed lawsuit by Tennessee's attorney general says the maker of the world's top-selling painkiller directed its salesforce to target the highest prescribers, many with limited or no pain management background or training.

Citing the public's right to know, Attorney General Herbert Slatery said Thursday that OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has dropped its previous efforts to shield details of the 274-page lawsuit in state court. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government and the Knoxville News Sentinel had also requested that the lawsuit's records become public.

Mark Humphrey/AP

Recent high school graduates in Tennessee are already allowed to attend community college at no cost. Now Gov. Bill Haslam is looking to expand the year-old program to provide free community college educations to adults, as well.

Haslam, a Republican who's been in office since 2011, made his pitch at Monday night's State of the State address. Afterwards, he tweeted, "Let's be the Tennessee we can be."

The pitch was well-received by members of both parties, as the governor pushes toward his goal of helping Tennessee have 55 percent of its 6.6 million citizens hold a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2025.

ACLU Settles Lawsuit Over Students' Right to Free Speech

Aug 18, 2016
Creative Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has settled a free speech lawsuit sparked by a student's T-shirt.

The Tennessean reports that the federal lawsuit was filed last November on behalf of a Richland High School senior who was censored by the school system after she wore a shirt to the school supporting equality for lesbian and gay people.

The shirt read: "Some People Are Gay, Get Over It."

The lawsuit said the school's principal prohibited the student from wearing that shirt or any other shirt referencing lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rights because it might provoke other students.

However, a U.S. District judge wrote a preliminary injunction defending students' rights to wear pro-LGBT apparel to school as long as it does not disrupt the school environment.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is questioning the need for a special legislative session related to the bathroom use of transgender public school students.

Some Republican state lawmakers have called for a special session after a directive issued by President Barack Obama's administration that public schools must allow students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Haslam told reporters Wednesday that it's unclear what the strategy or purpose of a special session would be. GOP lawmakers have engaged in a letter-writing campaign since the Obama directive was issued, demanding that the state join lawsuits challenging their implementation.

A Tennessee  bill seeking to require students to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificates was withdrawn in the waning days of the legislative session last month.

A youth detention center in Tennessee that saw the escape of 32 teens on Tuesday is back in the news today: Blake Farmer of NPR member station WPLN tells our Newscast unit that about 20 of them rioted overnight.

Blake filed this report:

"Teens could be seen carrying pipes and spraying fire extinguishers, running around the yard of the Woodland Hills youth detention center, which houses youth who've committed at least three felonies.

Tennessee election officials are hoping to break another record when the early voting period ends on Thursday, but they acknowledge remnants of superstorm Sandy could affect voter turnout in the northeastern part of the state.