Friday, March 20

Gov. Lee extends expired driver’s licenses, closes parole board meetings (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed a wide-ranging executive order that extends Tennesseans’ ability to use expired driver’s licenses, bolsters consumer protections, relaxes some regulatory oversight and temporarily allows the Board of Parole to close its meetings to the public. The massive executive order is part of Lee’s latest maneuvers to mitigate the effects and combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to extend expired driver’s licenses rather than close the state’s facilities is significant, as other states including Illinois and Virginia, have opted to use the latter approach. LINK

Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order provides unemployment benefits for those affected by Coronavirus (WSMV-TV) The State Department of Labor says the number of people filing for unemployment claims has tripled as more people face layoffs and losing jobs. Thursday, Governor Bill Lee issued an Executive Order that may provide some relief to people struggling. The Executive Order allows a person directed to quarantine or isolate because of #COVID-19 by order of medical professional or health authority to collect unemployment if they plan to return to their job and meet other requirements. LINK

Gov. Lee signs executive order, loosening restrictions on telehealth services (WTVF-TV) Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 15 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Tennessee. Gov. Lee signed the order Thursday, which will relieve regulations and burdens on health care professionals as well as free up departments to combat COVID-19. It also aims to quickly boost health care capacity and enhance customer service through the pandemic. LINK

As confirmed Tennessee COVID-19 cases more than double, Gov. Lee signs new executive order (Times Free Press) As Tennessee’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose Thursday, Gov. Bill Lee signed his second executive order that further deregulates the numbers of allowed hospital beds to free up more capacity while deregulating scope-of-practice laws to allow more health care professionals to treat patients. It comes as the number of people with coronavirus in the Volunteer State shot up 54% from a day earlier. There are five people from Hamilton County confirmed as having COVID-19. LINK

Coronavirus In Tennessee: Governor Seeking Ventilators; Memphis Orders Closures (WPLN Radio) In a briefing Thursday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee confirmed 154 cases of coronavirus in Tennessee — the largest day-over-day increase yet. Of those, 15 have been hospitalized. He also says the state has purchased 570 ventilators, bringing the total on hand in the state to more than 1,000. “Now let me just say, we are still continuing to pursue ventilators even though that’s doubling our current capacity,” Lee said. “Because we want to get ready in case there is a surge.” LINK

Gov. Lee tells mayors to pray, trust Tennesseans to do right thing to prevent spread of coronavirus (Times Free Press) The governor of Tennessee is encouraging local leaders to bet on human nature and prayer, rather than enforceable mandates, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. On a Wednesday morning conference call with scores of county and municipal mayors from across the state, Lee shot through a list of COVID-19 prevention, testing and treatment topics in less than half an hour, saying that more specific guidance will be shared with the localities later, and emphasizing the significant financial steps his administration is taking to cushion the economic impact of the outbreak. LINK

Governor inks broad order to boost COVID-19 health care, extend deadlines on licenses (Daily Memphian) As COVID-19 continued to spread statewide, the governor signed an executive order Thursday, March 19, to bolster the state’s health care capacity and give people more time to renew driver’s licenses and car tags. The order even allows the Tennessee Parole Board to conduct closed meetings, though officials didn’t say why. In expanding his authority under Tennessee’s state of emergency declaration, Gov. Bill Lee deregulated hospital beds to free up space for people who contract the coronavirus, eased rules to let health care professionals treat more patients and expanded the number of providers eligible to offer telehealth services. LINK

Gov. Lee comments on younger generation getting Coronovirus (WDEF-TV) A major challenge for the governmental push toward self isolation during the virus crisis has been convincing young adults. Florida is having a hard time convincing Spring Breakers to tone it down at the beach. The state is closing bars and shops, but some beaches are still popular. While most beaches had fewer people today, some argue they can easily maintain the six foot barrier and still hit the beach. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee: 15,000 beds & 537 ventilators ready for COVID-19 patients (WZTV-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Thursday reported there are now 154 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the state. Governor Lee updated the state’s ability to deal with patients who test positive and need care, specifically his Executive Order 15 which cuts red tape to help the state better prepare. Governor Lee said the order, which was signed Thursday, lifts regulatory restrictions such as the ability to procure more masks for healthcare professionals, an effort his office has already started. LINK

Gov. Lee Calls On Tennesseans To Help With Child Care During School Closures (WPLN Radio) About 1 million students will be out of school by the end of the week in Tennessee due to closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This means many parents will need child care, so Gov. Bill Lee is asking individuals, organizations and churches to pitch in. The question of where children will go as schools close has been a frequent one. Lee is encouraging informal arrangements to help fulfill the need for child care, rather than a government solution. He told reporters the state wants kids to stay with their neighbors during this time, in the spirit of volunteerism. LINK

Changes coming to DMV, license renewals to help stop spread of COVID-19 (WTVF-TV) Governor Bill Lee is changing how DMVs will operate in the state during the COVID-19 outbreak. Even after the CDC and President Trump encouraged people to use social distancing, the DMV continued to see crowded waiting rooms. Thus, the state will be limiting 10 people inside the facility at any given time to comply with the CDC guidelines.A digital ticketing plan will also be implemented so that people can sit in their vehicles instead of in the waiting area. They also encouraged anyone who can to use their online services. LINK

New efforts made to limit crowds at Tennessee driver services centers (WMC-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has unveiled the state’s plan to prevent the spread of coronavirus inside crowded driver services centers. Starting Friday, Tennessee DMVs will limit the number of people allowed inside at one time. Customers will receive an e-ticket and wait out in their cars. You will be texted or called when it’s your turn to enter. Citizens are no longer required to appear in person and have a new photograph taken through October 1, 2021. This will allow customers with expiring credentials to renew online and not visit in person. LINK

Gov. Lee issues Executive Order delaying vehicle registration, license renewal deadlines (WRCB-TV) The Hamilton County Clerk’s Office says an executive order by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has given the green light for residents to delay getting their vehicle registration and driver’s license renewed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s order delays vehicle registration renewals set to expire March 12 through May 18, 2020 to June 15, 2020. The order also suspends the expiration dates on valid driver licenses and Class ID photo identification for 6 months from the current expiration date. This extension applies to driver’s license and IDs set to expire March 12 through May 18, 2020. LINK

Real ID deadline may be extended as TN pushes back driver license renewal deadlines (WBIR-TV) Governor Bill Lee and other Tennessee officials announced changes to driver’s license regulations and to driver’s centers across the state on Thursday in response to COVID-19. The governor said he submitted a request to the federal government for an extension of two months on the deadline to get a Real ID. Other governors also submitted similar requests for an extension, Lee said. LINK

New photo for driver license renewals waived, expiration dates extended due to COVID-19 (WZTV-TV) Changes at state driver services centers were announced Thursday as 154 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Tennessee. Starting Friday, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is waiving its requirement that citizens appear in person to have a new photo taken through October 1, 2021. This allows many customers with expiring licenses to renew online and not visit a center, risking exposure to illness. LINK

Despite coronavirus’ impact on schools, Gov. Lee’s controversial voucher program set for fall start (Tennessean) School districts throughout Tennessee have closed. Lawmakers are set to halt mandatory education tests for the year. Plans for a K-12 mental health trust fund have been abandoned for now. And Gov. Bill Lee’s originally proposed raises teachers has been cut in half. Despite such drastic moves, which come in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Lee’s signature school vouchers program is still scheduled to begin this fall. And the move is suddenly being supported by House Republicans who were once critical of Lee’s early implementation. LINK

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tennessee rises to 156 (WTVF-TV) The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed more cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 155. The health department released the new numbers Thursday afternoon. LINK

155 cases of novel coronavirus confirmed in Tennessee (WZTV-TV) There are now 155 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Tennessee and Gov. Bill Lee has declared a state of emergency to help fight the virus. Of those 155 cases, 90 are from Middle Tennessee with 75 cases in Nashville/Davidson County, 30 from Williamson County, two in Sumner County, one in Cheatham County, one in Robertson County, one from Rutherford County, and one at the Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital, according to hospital representatives. The age range is from 11 to 82 years old. LINK

Latest coronavirus news in Tennessee: Now 154 cases statewide (Tennessean) Thursday’s jump to at least 154 people infected with the coronavirus statewide brought with it Volkswagen Chattanooga suspending production and Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas announcing nationwide plant shutdowns. Just one day prior, President Donald Trump signed a coronavirus emergency aid package that will grant sick leave to workers who fall ill. The USA TODAY Network newsrooms in Tennessee are uniquely positioned to track the effects of coronavirus in the U.S. as they spread across the state. LINK

COVID-19 Updates: Confirmed cases rise 60 percent (Nashville Post) Confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped nearly 60 percent statewide on Thursday after the Tennessee Department of Health confirmed 154 cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, 75 of which are in Davidson County.Thursday marks the largest jump in case reporting to date. State and local health officials said they expect to continue to see the number increase as testing becomes more widely available. The Tennessee Department of Health has begun listing screening locations on its website and will continue updating as more sites become available. LINK

Unemployment options amid coronavirus pandemic (WBBJ-TV) Many people are concerned about losing their jobs or being laid-off due to the coronavirus pandemic. As more cases of COVID-19 are reported across the state, many businesses are temporarily closing, including bars, restaurants, and small businesses. “And there are employees out of work, that is a typical lack of work claim here in Tennessee and if they meet all the eligibility requirements here in Tennessee they would be eligible for unemployment benefits here in the state,” said Chris Cannon, Assistant Administrator of Communication at Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. LINK

Tennessee has 537 available ventilators, looks to double supply as coronavirus defenses ramp up (Tennessean) As coronavirus cases mount across Tennessee, the state is moving to bolster its inventory of ventilators and available hospital beds ahead of an expected wave of infected people needing in-patient care. Tennessee heath officials have counted 758 adult and 120 pediatric ventilators in the state — and have ordered 570 additional ventilators, public health officials said Thursday. LINK

Got questions about COVID-19? Please hold. (Tennessean) Hundreds of calls each day continue to go unanswered at Tennessee’s COVID-19 hotline nearly two weeks after it was set up to respond to questions about the widening pandemic. The state Department of Health is in the process of setting up a second call center with 50 phone lines to handle the large volume of calls, said Dr. Lisa Piercey, the department’s head. “We’re getting several hundred calls a day and in full transparency we’ve also got about that many on hold,” Piercey said. LINK

We read Tennessee’s pandemic plan. Here’s what we learned. (News Sentinel) It’s called the Tennessee Department of Health’s Novel Virus Pandemic Influenza Response Plan, and it’s a roadmap for decision-makers who have to react if a pandemic flu or new virus breaks out. Knox News reporters dove into the 171-page plan so you don’t have to. The document was last revised March 10. Here are highlights: The state’s plan says a flu or new virus pandemic could last as long as six months and that developing an effective vaccine could take just as long — up to four to six months. LINK

Hospitality workers across the state form coalition asking government for help (WTVF-TV) While many bars, stores and restaurants across the country close their doors temporarily because of the Coronavirus, one group is banding together. Tennessee Action For Hospitality is comprised of chefs, independent restaurant owners and hourly workers from all across the state. Like others, they’ve closed their doors but they’re asking for local and federal leaders for help. LINK

Restaurants shuttering in COVID-19 pandemic (WSMV-TV) A coalition of Nashville restaurateurs have sent a letter to the governor, imploring him to aid the workers they were forced to lay off. Eateries around Music City have shuttered in the face of COVID-19. “The impact has been devastating,” Nicky’s Coal-Fired Pizza Owner, Tony Galzin, said. LINK

“Do not abandon us” Tennessee distilleries ask governor for help (WVLT-TV) As tourism slows down and businesses close due the coronavirus outbreak, businesses owners turn to government officials for help. Kris Tatum, president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild, reached out to Governor Bill Lee in a letter saying: “I ask you to utilize your power of executive order to help business owners in the distilling, brewing and hospitality industries immediately. Temporary relief from payroll, gallonage and liquor by the drink taxes during these times will allow the very businesses that put their heart, soul and savings into rural and urban area revitalization efforts still be in business after we work through the current challenges everyone is facing. LINK

Feds mandate state to report more testing data (Nashville Post) With the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, state and local governments receiving federal aid are now required to report aggregated data on testing and results for public and commercial labs to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes information Tennessee leaders have consistently said is not being tracked and is insignificant. The Tennessee Department of Health right now reports the number of tests administered at the TN State Public Health Laboratory and the number of tests that come back negative and positive. LINK

Attorneys ask U.S. Supreme Court to consider Tennessee’s refugee resettlement lawsuit (Tennessean) Attorneys representing Tennessee are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on their lawsuit against the federal government’s refugee resettlement policy. The lawsuit, first filed federal court in March 2017, claims the federal government is forcing states to shoulder costs related to refugee resettlement in violation of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 10th Amendment says the federal government possesses only the powers delegated to it by the U.S. Constitution and that all other powers are reserved for the states. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers appeal refugee lawsuit to Supreme Court (AP) Tennessee’s Republican-led Legislature has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider their failed challenge of the federal refugee resettlement program, which claims the state shouldn’t be forced to spend money on Medicaid and other services for refugees. The petition this week claims lower courts wrongly ruled the Legislature lacks legal standing in the case. The filing follows Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s decision in January to continue resettling refugees after President Donald Trump’s administration offered the option for states and local governments to stop. LINK

Judge allows T-shirt lawsuit involving lawmaker to continue (AP) A federal judge is allowing a lawsuit to proceed to trial, filed by a student alleging school officials wrongly distributed T-shirts promoting a Republican lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct. The shirts were for a state Capitol field trip. Rep. David Byrd’s attorneys had argued the student didn’t attend the field trip, and therefore the case should be dismissed because the student wasn’t forced to wear the shirt. LINK

Tennessee legislature temporarily recesses after 14-hour day filled rarities amid coronavirus pandemic (Tennessean) Tennessee lawmakers recessed for an unknown period Thursday, after a dizzying 14-and-a half-hour day that featured a wide-ranging new executive order from Gov. Bill Lee, approval of a $39 billion budget scrutinized for less than a day, a multitude of closed-door meetings and last-minute pushes to approve a host of bills ranging from mundane to consequential. The General Assembly’s extraordinary flurry of activity highlighted a session that just days ago centered on hot-button issues only to be closed the public as lawmakers were suddenly thrust into action in an effort to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers pass budget, recess amid virus outbreak (AP) In close quarters advised against by health officials, Tennessee lawmakers shut down their 2020 session early after passing on Thursday a dramatically reduced spending plan for the upcoming year, in reaction to widespread coronavirus-related disruptions. Lawmakers had been scrambling to approve a newly designed 2020-21 fiscal year budget since the beginning of the week, maintaining that only “mission-critical” proposals would be passed before recessing and heading back to work as soon as June 1. LINK

Tennessee General Assembly Approves Emergency Budget, Adjourns Until June (WPLN Radio) Tennessee’s legislature approved a fast-tracked budget of about $39.8 billion late Thursday night after a marathon day of activity and as the state responds to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The amount is about $900 million less than what was initially proposed by Gov. Bill Lee’s administration. Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson said the approved budget excludes many of the initiatives considered earlier this year. “I don’t know that we’ve ever had one that did this, which basically took most everything that was in the original proposed out and got us to the posture where we are today,” Johnson said. LINK

Lawmakers working to pass budget amid COVID-19 outbreak; make cuts to education (WTVF-TV) State lawmakers are making tough decisions to pass a budget amid the new coronavirus outbreak. The state legislature will shut down, but they don’t want to do so before being prepared for the next year. They are expected to make budget cuts totaling $1.5 billion to shore up the state financially, with education taking a big hit. Promised raises for teachers will be cut back to two percent, while keeping the controversial Education Savings Account program. LINK

With doors shut to the public, Tennessee legislature rushes forward with budget, controversial bills (Tennessean) Inside a building shuttered to the public, as lawmakers rush to complete their work before a temporary recess, a top Republican leader has a message for Tennesseans: “Trust us.” The phrase was uttered by House Majority Leader William Lamberth on Thursday while answering questions from reporters following a closed-door caucus meeting. With hopes of temporarily ending the General Assembly’s business on Thursday, lawmakers were scurrying to pass a roughly $40 billion budget, approve a handful of controversial bills and make last-minute fixes to laws that previously spurred lawsuits. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers OK reduced $39.8 billion budget to respond to COVID-19 crisis (Times Free Press) Tennessee’s GOP-led General Assembly Thursday night approved Gov. Bill Lee’s re-tooled version of the state’s estimated $39.8 billion Fiscal Year 2021 budget Thursday night which seeks to respond to a growing coronavirus pandemic while freeing up other funds to prepare for an expected economic storm. “This is not the budget any of us anticipated passing,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson, told the chamber, noting that when lawmakers arrived in January he was concerned that flush revenues would result in too much spending. LINK

ouse, Senate pass barebones budget (TN Journal) Both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly have passed a barebones budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The spending plan projects no economic growth and required the deep reductions from Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s original proposal. Democratic efforts to eliminate about $40 million to start up the governor’s school voucher program failed. Lee was on hand to watch the the budget debate in the House and Senate. LINK

Legislature passes budget, recesses for two months (Nashville Post) The Tennessee General Assembly on Thursday approved a diminished annual budget, just a few days after Gov. Bill Lee and legislative leaders announced a plan to expedite the process and recess for at least two months. Acknowledging that public health experts consider large meetings a hazard amid the worldwide spread of coronavirus, Lee joined House and Senate leaders in closing their buildings to the public this week, shutting out the typical throngs of visitors during a rapid series of budget hearings and closed-door meetings that led to a compromise spending plan. LINK

General Assembly votes on budget, leaves Nashville (Daily Memphian) Facing the biggest state and national emergency in decades, the Tennessee Legislature adopted a $39.8 billion budget Thursday night, March 19, and vacated the State Capitol as COVID-19 continued to spread. It was a surreal scene, especially in the House. Democratic state Rep. G.A. Hardaway of Memphis wore a face mask to protect himself from the coronavirus as state lawmakers approved Gov. Bill Lee’s “no-growth” budget. LINK

House GOP leaders: ‘Trust us’ on secret budget discussions (TN Journal) After the House Republican supermajority holed up behind closed doors for 75 minutes to discuss the massive overhaul of the state’s budget in response to the coronavirus crisis, Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) spoke to reporters about their justifications for the secret meeting. Here’s a partial transcript of what was said: Lamberth: We’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s a transparent process. That includes, from time to time having a caucus meeting that is a closed caucus meeting so they can merely have the information, but no decisions were made. LINK

Controlling House Republicans hold secret meeting to discuss budget (Daily Memphian) House Republicans emerged from a secret meeting Thursday, March 19, with agreements to cut nearly $1 billion from the state budget plan for fiscal 2020-21 while leaving the governor’s voucher law funding intact. Teacher pay raises, though, would be cut in half. With the coronavirus spreading across the state, the Legislature is trying to approve a budget – possibly Thursday night – and recess for at least two months. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers approve bill to cancel the TNReady standardized assessment (Tennessean) Tennessee lawmakers approved the cancellation of TNReady testing requirements this school year after the closure of schools statewide to combat the novel coronavirus. The proposal received widespread support in the House and Senate, passing unanimously. The bill also ensures schools, teachers and students aren’t held accountable for not taking the test. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers pass bill to cancel TNReady tests, teacher evaluations amid virus (WZTV-TV) Members of the Tennessee General Assembly have passed a bill to immediately waive student testing and teacher evaluations amid COVID-19. The Tennessee Department of Education says HB2818/ SB2672 ensures that no school district, employee or teacher is adversely impacted by closings, student absenteeism or other hardships that may be related to novel coronavirus and the tornadoes. LINK

Tennessee state lawmakers pass bill dropping testing requirements (WVLT-TV) State lawmakers passed a bill Thursday waiving several requirements for all Tennessee schools in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the tornadoes in middle Tennessee. The bill includes the following changes to requirements: Allow schools to end their school year without 180 days of instruction; Suspend the requirement for the 2019-20 spring administration of the TNReady and end-of-course assessments. Schools and districts would be allowed to continue with testing if they choose, but none would be required. LINK

Proposed Tennessee teacher raise drops as money goes to fight coronavirus pandemic (WZTV-TV) The Tennessee legislature is expected to pass Governor Bill Lee’s revised budget Friday and adjourn for many weeks to wait out the novel coronavirus. Lee proposed an updated budget on Wednesday that reflected lower growth estimates and changing priorities centered around the pandemic. “These are hard choices, but hard times require hard choices,” Lee said during his daily update about how Tennessee is dealing with the virus. “Some of the hopes that we had for legislation around education have been taken off the table for now.” LINK

General Assembly passes education bill to cancel TNReady tests, teacher evaluations (WATE-TV) Lawmakers in the Tennessee House and Senate passed an education bill Thursday that will cancel TNReady testing as well as teacher evaluations for the current school year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The bill, (HB2818/ SB2672) proposes to ensure no Tennessee school district, employee or teacher is adversely impacted by the school closings, student absenteeism or other hardships that may be related to COVID-19 and natural disasters such as the recent tornadoes that devastated communities in Middle Tennessee. LINK

Lawmakers move to cancel state testing amid pandemic with teachers union support (Johnson City Press) State lawmakers recently moved to cancel statewide TNReady exams for public school districts amid school closures urged by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). House Bill 2818, which passed the House Curriculum, Testing and Innovation Subcommittee Wednesday before being approved by lawmakers Thursday, would ensure teachers, students and schools aren’t penalized for not taking standardized tests or scoring poorly on them. LINK

In one afternoon, 9 Democrats pulled petitions for state house in Williamson County (Tennessean) On Thursday afternoon, nine Williamson County Democrats have pulled petitions to run for the Tennessee House of Representatives.This follows a slate of nearly 20 Democrats who ran for the Williamson County Commission in 2018. There has not been a Democrat elected in the county since Mike Williams, who held the District 63 seat until 2001. LINK

Tennessee delegation splits on coronavirus relief (Nashville Post) Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn was one of just eight senators to vote against a coronavirus relief package that made its way through Congress in the past week. The bill, backed by President Donald Trump, includes funding for worker sick leave and free COVID-19 testing. Blackburn opposed the proposal, she said, because “Tennessee workers and small business owners do not want unfunded federal mandates placed on them while they are struggling to keep their doors open and meet payroll.” LINK

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee offers members free telephone health screenings amid coronavirus spread (Tennessean) BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is offering free telephone health screenings for its members on eligible health plans through April 30. The telehealth screenings are meant to help the insurance company’s members access health services without having to leave their homes, according to a news release. The screenings are also meant to limit the spread and impact of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. LINK

Volkswagen Chattanooga suspends production amid COVID-19 pandemic (WSMV-TV) Volkswagen Chattanooga has announced it will suspend production for one week beginning Saturday, March 21 with current plans to resume operations on Sunday, March 29. Volkswagen will conduct additional sanitation and cleaning procedures throughout the factory to ensure the safety and health of its employees. Volkswagen will also use this time to assess future production plans and market developments. LINK

Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas announces U.S. plant shutdowns amid coronavirus spread (Tennessean) Nashville-based tire maker Bridgestone Americas announced that it will temporarily close all North American manufacturing facilities, a day after many automakers said they are shutting down plants. The move comes as the coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreads around the nation and the globe. Most of the company’s production warehouses are concentrated in the eastern United States. They include truck and bus tire manufacturing facilities LaVergne and Warren County. LINK

Construction sites are mostly business as usual despite threat of COVID-19 (WTVF-TV) Construction across Middle Tennessee is hammering on despite the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the Associated General Contractors of Tennessee, CDC hand-washing fliers are posted and extra hand-sanitizing stations are set up at construction sites around the state. “Companies have started social distancing their sub-contractors once you close down the walls, so they are maintaining procedures to make sure people are separated on the job site and maintaining that at least 6-foot distance on all projects,” executive director Kaylah White said. LINK

More hospitals relying on telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic (WTVF-TV) Health providers are asking you to call into your doctor’s office instead of coming in-person. Now, hospitals are relying more on telehealth and telemedicine during the COVID-19 outbreak. Using telehealth services reduces overcrowding hospitals. Instead of walking into a hospital, patients can connect with health care providers digitally through platforms like Teledoc. LINK

Tenn. firearm sales delayed by coronavirus, TBI says (AP) Just as grocery stores have been stripped bare by Americans panicked by coronavirus, guns and ammo have been flying off the shelves too. The spike in gun sales has had an impact in Tennessee, too. On Thursday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said the website used to run background checks for firearm sales experienced a delay due to the spike in gun and ammo sales, limited staffing due to the pandemic and a technical issue. LINK

Drive-up coronavirus testing centers in works in Davidson County (Tennessean) Four or five drive-up coronavirus testing centers are in the works in Davidson County to help ease the burden on local health care facilities during the pandemic. White tents at Nissan Stadium and 2490 Murfreesboro Pike in southeast Nashville represent two of the locations where free testing for the virus will be done. The other locations have not been announced. LINK

Third Man Records launches daily livestream performance, ‘Third Man Public Access’ (Tennessean) Practice social distance with a daily trip to Third Man Records’ Blue Room. Jack White’s Nashville-based record label virtually invites viewers into its intimate venue and session room for daily performances via “Third Man Public Access.” Tune in at noon via Third Man Records’ YouTube channel to ” feed your soul with the magic that only ‘live’ music/poetry/puppet shows/some sort of human connection can provide.” Experimental pedal steel player Luke Schneider — who releases a full-length album, “Altar of Harmony,” in May — kicked off performances Thursday. Stay glued to Third Man social media for an updated Public Access lineup. LINK

OPINION

Rep. Michael Curcio: Storm is here, Tennessee is prepared (Tennessean) My grandfather used to say “if you always live like you’re in a recession, you’ll never experience one.” This is sage advice and is exactly what your Tennessee General Assembly and State Leadership believe. First, I want to address the novel Coronavirus which began in China and has now made its way across Europe and the Americas. It is not appropriate to panic, but it is appropriate to take this seriously. What we know is that as testing kits come online, we will see a sharp rise in the infection rate in Tennessee. LINK

Joe Rogers: Davy or Andy? Who is greatest Tennessean? (TN Ledger) David Crockett, aka Davy: Great Tennessean or greatest Tennessean? Hold your fire, Andrew Jackson fans. I’ll explain later. First: Efforts to place a statue of Crockett on the prime spot of the Capitol grounds are making progress in the Tennessee legislature. The House bill that would do so, sponsored by Rep. David Hawk, is paired with a Senate bill by Sen. Steve Southerland. The proposed location is above the entrance to the Motlow Tunnel on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Basically, the front yard of the Capitol. LINK

Column: Getting soaked in Tennessee (Johnson City Press) Ever wish you had a billion dollars? Well, you do have over a billion dollars but you are not allowed to spend it on yourself. You see the state of Tennessee collects taxes on most everything except wages and you can only sit back and watch it be spent by others on some things you may not approve. The sales tax is Tennessee’s largest source (54%) of state tax revenue. LINK

Column: Dave Ramsey Keeps Offices Open After Staffer Tests Positive for COVID-19 (Nashville Scene) For the past week, public health experts and government officials have been urging citizens, in increasingly serious tones, to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has sparked a global pandemic. Those calls have been echoed by celebrities and heeded by many business leaders. But not Dave Ramsey. LINK

Jackson Baker: Apropos the Crisis (Memphis Flyer) Among the consequences of the current pandemic is that various public events, some of them long-scheduled, are now off the calendar until some undefined future point — or canceled outright. There is, of course, a third option, involving reliance upon the various forms of virtual presence the cybernetic age has made possible. An example of the latter is the Democrats’ selection of delegates to the party’s upcoming summer convention. LINK

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