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.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly are calling on Gov. Bill Lee to increase the state’s spending on public schools.

They claim an increase in the school funding formula is the first step to improving literacy rates.

For years, public school advocates have pursued legal challenges to Tennessee’s school funding formula, called the Basic Education Program. They claim it’s outdated.


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

More details are coming out as Tennessee prepares to launch the Education Savings Account program in Shelby and Davidson counties.

In a legislative hearing Monday, the state’s Department of Education said it’s using money from a dormant career initiative to be able to start school vouchers this year.

According to education officials, the money will pay for an outside vendor to be in charge of processing school voucher payments.

The amount charged by Florida-based ClassWallet is $1.2 million — twice as much as what was initially appropriated for the first year of implementation.


Blake Farmer | WPLN

Tennessee health officials haven’t been questioning many of the state’s highest opioid prescribers. Of the most prolific, half have never triggered an inquiry, and most have never been disciplined.

The state comptroller was asked by lawmakers to look into how the state Department of Health polices opioid prescribing. They found 62 prescribers that were far outside the standard practice of medicine, and only half were on the state’s radar.

Research analyst Kristina Podesta says their patterns might be explainable.

“The data that we’re looking at in black and white, unfortunately, isn’t that simple when you’re dealing with patients,” she says. “So I think there’s a lot more that goes into it than just the data.”

direct_relief via Creative Commons

It’s just a handful of pediatricians in Tennessee responsible for making Tennessee one of the highest prescribers of antibiotics in the country. A new study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Tennessee Department of Health finds 2% of pediatricians account for 25% of the antibiotic prescriptions in the state.

According to the analysis, published in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, the physicians tend to be older. Most left medical school more than 20 years ago, meaning they likely received less training on the risk of antibiotic resistance and the emergence of superbugs.


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

The Tennessee Senate reconvened Tuesday and jumped into one of the most controversial issues left over from last year. 

Lawmakers approved a measure that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse child placements based on moral beliefs.  

Some lawmakers worry about the economic implications. Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, says he fears Tennessee will experience a corporate backlash over the adoption legislation, which he says discriminates against LGBT couples.