Thursday, March 26

Governor Lee announces funding for victims of early March tornadoes (WBBJ-TV Jackson) On March 3, Tennessee was impacted by widespread tornadoes and severe storms causing 25 weather-related fatalities and over 4,000 structures destroyed. Thursday, Governor Bill Lee announced funding coming to the areas impacted. In west Tennessee, this includes Benton and Carroll counties. This means costs associated with damage to county roads and bridges, water control facilities, buildings and equipment, utilities, and parks also are eligible for federal reimbursement under the major disaster declaration. LINK

Benton, Carroll, Smith Counties to get federal aid for tornado damage (WTVF-TV Nashville) Three Tennessee counties will also receive federal assistance following the deadly tornadoes that hit the mid-state in early March. Governor Bill Lee announced Wednesday that Benton, Carroll and Smith Counties will be included in the state’s Major Disaster Declarations. “These counties will now receive federal reimbursement assistance for their costs related to damaged infrastructure and recovery measures,” Gov. Lee said. “We continue to work closely with our federal partners to help our counties and communities receive rebuilding and recovery help.” LINK

3 more counties eligible for severe weather reimbursement (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says three additional Tennessee counties are eligible for federal assistance under disaster declarations for tornadoes and severe weather that killed 25 people on March 3. Lee said in a news release that Benton, Carroll and Smith counties will be eligible for federal reimbursement assistance for costs related to damaged infrastructure and recovery. The three new counties and Davidson, Putnam and Wilson counties are also eligible for federal reimbursement for costs associated with damage to county roads and bridges, water control facilities, buildings and equipment, utilities and parks. LINK

Gov. Lee: Nonessential locations can open as emergency child care centers (WTVF-TV Nashville) Governor Bill Lee gives an update to Tennessee’s COVID-19 outbreak. Officials have confirmed a total of 906 cases and three deaths due to the virus. Lee announced that nonessential businesses and locations can open as emergency child care centers. “If a church, gym or nonprofit wants to open an emergency child care center in Tennessee, especially for those on the front liens, they can do so… Some places may not be able to stay open. I’ve directed DHS to reach out to every child care facility in the state to organize and secure supplies for you,” said Lee. LINK

Gov. Lee: 11,012 negative coronavirus tests taken in Tennessee out of 11,796 (WZTV-TV Fox 17 Nashville) Gov. Bill Lee announced a significant majority of negative coronavirus tests taken in the state of Tennessee. Lee provided an update on the Volunteer State’s efforts regarding COVID-19 on Wednesday, which included current Department of Health Testing Results as of 2:00 p.m. According to data, 11,012 negative tests have been confirmed in Tennessee out of a total of 11,796 taken. State PH Lab reported 1,031 negative tests out of 1,115. Non-State PH Lab reported 9,981 negative tests out of 10,681. LINK

Gov. Lee provides COVID-19 update (WBBJ-TV Jackson) Governor Bill Lee addressed more of the state’s plan to combat the Coronavirus for Tennesseans. During a daily news conference Wednesday, Lee says the CDC has pledged $10 million to Tennessee’s effort to fight the COVID-19, which he says will primarily go towards testing. Gov. Lee and medical professionals expect the number of cases to go up as more testing becomes available. Wednesday, Lee expressed the importance of testing in the state. LINK

Governor Lee considering law enforcement to make people comply with COVID-19 orders (WKRN-TV Nashville) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee late Wednesday said he would use of law enforcement to make some people comply with his executive orders trying to lessen the impact of COVID-19. During his daily briefing on the virus, he said “if guidance or specific executive orders are ignored then we will use that enforcement as appropriate. We want people to know you are defying guidance here and it’s actually very serious.” Governor Lee’s response came after a question about his order banning gatherings statewide of 10 or more people. LINK

Governor Lee addresses military assistance, abortion in Wednesday COVID-19 press briefing (WKRN-TV Nashville) During his daily COVID-19 briefing, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee addressed child care needs, military assistance and the need for people to continue social distancing.  Governor Lee announced $10 million in grants being made available to child care facilities across the state, through the Department of Human Resources. He said emergency care offered by churches and non-profits would also be considered for the grants. DHS is also working to make sure all child care facilities have the cleaning supplies they need to stay open. LINK

PODCAST: Brower shares the mission of Gov. Lee’s COVID-19 Task Force (Clarksville Now) Governor Bill Lee’s recent announcement of a task force specifically designed to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, includes Gen. Scott Brower (Ret.) of the 101st Airborne Division. On March 23, the governor established the joint effort, let by Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, to streamline coordination across the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Military. LINK

Testing numbers statewide released; local numbers still unknown (Daily Memphian) Going into the third week of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still impossible to get any kind of official numbers on how many people have been tested in Shelby County. There are estimates and rough figures, but local leaders won’t release even a ballpark figure as state government this week said more than 11,700 had been tested across Tennessee. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday, March 25, in Nashville the state is testing more people for COVID-19 than other states in the region, even states with higher populations. LINK

Gov. Lee: Abortions included in Tennessee ban on non-emergency surgeries amid COVID-19 outbreak (Times Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday his COVID-19 executive order barring “non-essential” medical procedures would also apply to elective abortions. “The executive order was certainly crafted in order to provide [personal protective equipment] for health care” professionals involved in the coronavirus response, as well as ensure resources were available for those suspected or already known to have the potentially deadly infection, the Republican said in an afternoon teleconference call with reporters. LINK

Tennessee gov hopes no ‘elective’ abortions with virus order (AP) A spokesman says Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s hope and expectation is that there will be no “elective” abortions performed in the state under an executive order that bars non-emergency medical procedures to free up equipment for hospital workers treating the coronavirus. Lee spokesman Gillum Ferguson said Wednesday that the Republican governor doesn’t consider elective abortions essential procedures. Lee on Monday ordered a halt to non-emergency dental work and nonessential hospital and surgical outpatient procedures, though the order didn’t specifically mention abortion. LINK

We asked Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn your questions about COVID-19 and schools (News Sentinel) With new information coming daily about the coronavirus, and Gov. Bill Lee asking schools to remain closed through April 24, parents and students have many questions about what this means for the school year. Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn talked with Knox News about how the Tennessee Department of Education has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic and some of the latest changes. LINK

How to help educate your kids at home (WVLT-TV Knoxville) Most, if not all, Tennessee schools will be closed through at least April 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Bill Lee made the request on Tuesday, after Tennessee saw its cases of coronavirus climb higher. As of March 25, Tennessee had three confirmed deaths related to the virus and at least 784 cases. Parents and educators are struggling to accommodate needs across the board so that kids can learn during their month-long hiatus from in-person classes. LINK

Families hurting from COVID-19 job, income losses eligible for cash assistance from DHS (Tennessean) The Tennessee Department of Human Services will begin deploying emergency cash assistance to families whose income has been significantly hurt by the COVID-19 outbreak, accessing dollars in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Family program. Beginning Thursday, families can apply online for up to two months of assistance, with some families eligible for up to $1,000 a month. Those applying had to be employed as of March 11 and had to have lost a job or experienced a 50% decline in earnings because of the impact of the coronavirus. LINK

Tennessee Department of Human Services offers financial assistance to families experiencing unemployment due to COVID-19 (Times Free Press) For answers to frequently asked questions about the coronavirus, click here. The Tennessee Department of Human Services is making essential financial resources available to families that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 emergency, according to a TDHS news release. Starting Thursday at 10 a.m. CST (11 a.m. EST), families can begin applying online for up to two months of emergency cash assistance. LINK

Gov. Lee seeking coverage for COVID-19 patients who are uninsured, expects answers on unemployment benefits Thursday (WBIR-TV Knoxville) Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday he’s working to resolve how the uninsured in Tennessee can get coverage for health care if they fall ill with COVID-19. Lee said he also expects to provide answers Thursday during an update on unemployment benefits that will be made available for part-time workers. The governor also confirmed that his Monday executive order, No. 8, that halts elective surgeries for the time being includes what he called “elective abortions.” LINK

Governor still seeking Medicaid expansion for COVID-19 patients (Daily Memphian) As COVID-19 cases passed the 780 mark statewide, Gov. Bill Lee reiterated he is negotiating with the federal government for Medicaid funding to cover uninsured Tennesseans who contract the virus. The governor said Wednesday, March 25, he directed the Division of TennCare to request a waiver from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow the state to use Medicaid funds for uninsured residents who are affected by the coronavirus. The status of the request is “incomplete,” he said during his daily press conference, which is being conducted remotely. LINK

Tennessee is requesting Medicaid waiver for uninsured (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday that he has directed the state’s TennCare department to request a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to use Medicaid dollars for currently uninsured Tennesseans in need of COVID-19 treatment. Lee said on Monday he spoke with Seema Verma, CMS administrator, to go over the details of Tennessee’s proposal, details of which the state has not yet publicly shared. “We feel encouraged about that,” Lee said. “We want to try to make certain we can provide access to health care specifically related to COVID-19 for every Tennessean. LINK

Gov. Lee says Tennessee has “enforcement capacity” (WVLT-TV Knoxville) Governor Lee told media on Wednesday that the state has “enforcement capacity” when it comes to making sure people follow policies related to COVID-19. He added that if executive orders are disobeyed they will use enforcement where and when it is appropriate. Governor Lee, as well as local governments, have asked for stricter guidelines for non-essential businesses and for groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re very serious about it…this is about Tennesseans who will get sick and Tennesseans we will lose.” LINK

Nashville Wants Residents To ‘Self-Enforce’ Social Distancing; Governor Hints At Stronger Action (WPLN Radio) Nashville officials closed recreation areas throughout the city, saying that residents weren’t doing enough to observe social distancing. Meanwhile, the state’s governor said his office is exploring enforcement options if Tennesseans don’t begin to observe local stay-at-home orders. Metro Nashville extended its existing ban on most public gatherings Wednesday by closing all dog parks, picnic shelters, skate parks and basketball and tennis courts. Leaders say that they’d spotted people congregating less than 6 feet apart — the standard advised by health officials to prevent spread of the coronavirus. LINK

With most people with COVID-19 in Tennessee under 50, health officials say they can play biggest role in stopping spread (Tennessean) Statewide and in Tennessee’s largest cities, more younger adults are testing positive for the coronavirus, according to results of tests done so far — leading state and local health officials to renew their warning for these residents to take proper precautions to protect themselves and others. Of the 257 cases of reported in Davidson County on Wednesday, residents between the ages of 18 and 49 make up 76% of those reporting the illness. In Shelby County, 38% of cases are among those 21 and 40 years old and 74% are people 60 or under. LINK

Timeline uncertain for lifting COVID-19 restrictions in Nashville (WKRN-TV Nashville) The COVID-19 pandemic has already had a major impact on the economy with some questioning how long it will be necessary for businesses to remain closed. Governor Bill Lee said in his Tuesday press conference there will be a “significant increase” in Tennessee’s jobless rate due to COVID-19 pandemic. Across Tennessee, restaurants can only offer take out, drive through, or delivery service after the governor’s order for closing non-essential businesses Sunday. LINK

Additional changes coming to DMV, license renewals due to COVID-19 concerns (WTVF-TV Nashville) Further changes and updates were announced today regarding Driver Services Centers and license renewals in the state of Tennessee, as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDOSHS), Driver Services Centers will remain open; however, updates have been added to the DMV changes announced last week. LINK

Tennessee looking for volunteers to help seniors during the pandemic (WMC-TV Memphis) The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability needs volunteers to help older Tennesseans. Seniors who are isolated at home because of the coronavirus pandemic could really use the help. Access to food is now one of the most critical needs for this population who are at the highest risk of developing serious medical complications if they contract this virus. Tennessee is seeing more and more older adults at home with limited options for healthy eating. And for them social distancing often means extreme isolation. LINK

Tennessee searching for volunteers to help older adults staying at home during coronavirus pandemic (Times Free Press) Many seniors who are social distancing and isolated at home have limited options for healthy eating, and they are at the highest risk of developing serious medical complications if they contract COVID-19, the release states. The local Area Agencies on Aging and Disability is offering options for others to help these Tennessee seniors that include delivering meals, food boxes or household supplies to homebound or at-risk older adults and making phone calls to check on them and make sure their basic needs are being met. Other volunteer assistance may also be needed, according to the release. LINK

Tennessee families with lost income due to COVID-19 could get cash assistance (WREG-TV Memphis) Tennessee families who have lost a significant amount of income due to the coronavirus could get help from the state. Beginning March 26 at 10 a.m., families in the state can apply online for cash assistance from the Tennessee Department of Human Services. A member of the family can apply for up to two months of emergency cash assistance if they were employed as of March 11 and have lost employment or at 50% of their income as a result of COVID-19. The emergency assistance could provide two monthly cash payments to families who lost jobs or lost at least 50% of income. Eligible families must include a child under 18 years old or a pregnant woman. LINK

Coronavirus in Tennessee: Emergency cash assistance applications to start Thursday (WATE-TV Knoxville) The Tennessee Department of Human Services is making essential financial resources available to families that have been impacted by the novel coronavirus. TDHS says that emergency cash assistance applications are being accepted from families starting 10 a.m. CST Thursday for up to two months of financial assistance if they were employed as of March 11, 2020 and they’ve lost employment or at least 50% of their earned income as a result of the pandemic. TDHS says all offices are currently operating on appointment only as a precaution for COVID-19. LINK

Emergency Cash Assistance available for qualified families impacted by coronavirus job loss (WBIR-TV Knoxville) Tennessee families who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus can now apply for emergency cash assistance, according to The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS). To qualify, you must have been employed up until March 11, 2020, and as a family, lost at least 50 percent of earned income as a result of the pandemic, and include a child under the age of 18 or a pregnant woman. LINK

Tennessee offers money to day cares suffering during pandemic but all are not eligible (WMC-TV Memphis) The Tennessee Department of Human Services opened applications Wednesday for child care centers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tennessee will provide $10 million in grant money to licensed child care agencies impacted by the pandemic or the Middle Tennessee tornadoes. However, there are strict rules about who qualifies. At Global Children Services in Whitehaven, enrollment has dropped over 50%. LINK

State Asks Graduate Students, Retirees to Enter Counseling Workforce (WPLN Radio) The Tennessee Departments of Children’s Services (DCS) and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TMDHSAS) are asking masters-level students and retirees in the fields of counseling, therapy and social work to consider filling workforce needs during the coronavirus outbreak. ”COVID-19 has caused the operations of many businesses and families to pause. It does not however, permit our department to do the same,” DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols said in a press release. LINK

Tennessee doctors worry about ‘tsunami’ of COVID-19 cases (WBIR-TV Knoxville) “It is really scary,” said Dr. Elise Denneny, summing up her concern and the concerns echoed by many of dozens of her colleagues in the medical field about the COVID-19 crisis. They are watching the spike in COVID-19 cases in other states like New York and are expressing grave concerns about the need for a “stay at home” order from Governor Bill Lee that will blanket the state. LINK

COVID-19 updates: Death toll rises to three (Nashville Post) The Tennessee Department of Health on Wednesday afternoon reported there are 784 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 52 counties. The statewide death toll has risen to three. TDH Commissioner Lisa Piercey contends the rate by which cases are being reporting has slowed but that does not indicate a downturn in the outbreak. The state’s death and hospitalization reporting are also delayed, Piercey says, because of logistical reasons within the health care system. LINK

COVID-19: 906 cases, 3 deaths confirmed in Tennessee (WTVF-TV Nashville) On Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee has risen to 906. NewsChannel 5 is keeping an independent count of cases in the state, using information from both the Tennessee Department of Health and local health agencies. LINK

906 cases of novel coronavirus confirmed in Tennessee, including 3 deaths (WZTV-TV Fox 17 Nashville) There are now 906 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Tennessee, including three deaths. Governor Bill Lee has declared a state of emergency to help fight the virus. Three people have died in the state due to COVID-19. The death of a 73-year-old Davidson County man with underlying conditions was the first in the state. Vanderbilt University Medical Center confirmed the second coronavirus-related death Saturday in Tennessee. LINK

COVID-19 case reporting faces major delays (Nashville Post) For three days in a row, state officials have reported fewer new cases than the day before: 134 on Sunday, 110 on Monday and only 52 on Tuesday. In a well-flowing system, those numbers would signal that the pandemic is slowing down. But a national shortage of supplies and backups at laboratories mean that data is quite incomplete, rendering state and local government officials using the metric as a factor in their policy decisions unable to know the scope of COVID-19’s spread and slowing their ability to make appropriate decisions. This is not isolated to Tennessee: Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said in a press briefing Tuesday that dynamic is affecting all states in some measure. LINK

Health officials reaffirm stay-at-home orders to ‘starve virus of new hosts’(Daily Memphian) Shelby County had 170 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon, March 25, according to the Shelby County Health Department. There were 135 confirmed cases Tuesday, with no additions between the health department’s morning update and its 2 p.m. media briefing. Among the new cases reported were two employees at the Memphis VA Medical Center and two others at Regional One Health. While data on demographics is still scarce, Alisa Haushalter, head of the Shelby County Health Department, says there is enough to know that people are continuing to go to work sick. LINK

Tennessee colleges unite to create 3D face shields for health care professionals combating COVID-19 (WJHL-TV Johnson City) Many Tennessee colleges and universities are playing a major role in the COVID-19 pandemic by manufacturing face shields to protect health professionals across the nation. The race is on to provide medical professionals across the country the gear they need to safely combat the virus. This is the blueprint TCAT colleges are following to create 3D face shields. East Tennessee State University and various Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) colleges are manufacturing 3D face shields to address the mask shortage. LINK

Local colleges and universities use 3D printers to help save lives (WBBJ-TV Jackson) Across the state, colleges and universities are banding together during the Coronavirus pandemic, using 3D printers to help save lives. “What we’re doing is collecting all of the materials and printers we can in one place, and then printing parts that are going to be used for protective face shields that medical professionals in the state will be using,” said Tennessee College of Applied Technology instructor, Robert Pepper. LINK

TSU develops and manufactures face shields to address equipment shortage (Johnson City Press) Health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak need personal protective equipment to reduce exposure and limit spread of the disease. East Tennessee State University and community partners are addressing the shortage of medical equipment by developing and manufacturing face shields. Last week, Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission requested assistance in meeting the increased demand for face shields. The 3D-printed headband for the shield can take a long time to produce, so Dr. Keith Johnson and Bill Hemphill from the Department of Engineering, Engineering Technology and Surveying immediately went to work developing a prototype that does not require a 3D printer. LINK

Pellissippi State 3D prints face shields for medical professionals (WBIR-TV Knoxville) Though college campuses are closed, many are still helping health care professionals. Pellissippi State is one of several Tennessee colleges using 3D printers to make personal protective equipment to help people caring for coronavirus patients. So far, the college has prepared over 200 headbands that will go on face shields. It’s not just people who are typically in the 3D printing lab doing this. Security personnel are also doing their part. LINK

TCAT in Elizabethton making face shields for health officials (WCYB-TV Bristol) The Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Elizabethton is getting creative in helping to protect health officials during the coronavirus pandemic. TCAT along with other tech and community colleges in the state are using 3-D printers to make plastic face shields. The project was announced by Gov. Bill Lee on Monday. More than 1,500 critically needed pieces of protective equipment have been made for health care professionals. LINK

University of Tennessee announces new grading scale to help ‘overwhelmed’ students (Tennessean) The University of Tennessee, Knoxville will allow students to opt in to a pass-fail grading scale for most undergraduate and some graduate classes, campus officials announced Wednesday. Students are scattered across the state and beyond after campus shut down in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and faculty have scrambled to move their classes online. LINK

MTSU launches new scholarship opportunities in light of COVID-19 (WSMV-TV Nashville) Middle Tennessee State University normally has a December 1st application deadline for scholarships for freshmen entering school the following fall. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, and how that has impacted students around the world, the University has launched three new scholarships for incoming freshmen. MTSU will accept applications for the three new awards – the Lightning Scholarship, the Blue Raider Scholarship and the Future Alumni Scholarship – through Aug. 14, 10 days before the start of the Fall 2020 semester. LINK

ETSU College of Medicine Dean calls for ‘safer-at-home’ order; local leaders deferring to state (Johnson City Press) Dr. Bill Block, dean of the Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University, is urging local and state officials to issue a “safer-at-home” order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). “The best time to act is now,” Block said. “I know that’s a difficult thing for all of us to wrap our heads around — that we’re not seeing the problem — but we need to have a response. LINK

Victims of domestic violence in Memphis still have options during shelter-in-place (Commercial Appeal) On Monday, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued an executive order that instructed all Memphis residents to stay at home unless conducting essential businesses for a two-week period, which has some advocates worried about victims of domestic abuse that may be forced to stay in with an abusive partner or family member. Though some organizations have suspended in-person and walk-in victims’ services in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the Memphis area, help is still available, said Shelby County Crime Victims and Rape Crisis Center director Sandy Bromley. LINK

Tennessee Courts To Remain Closed Through Next Month (WPLN Radio) The Tennessee Supreme Court has issued an order requiring both state and local courts to continue to suspend most in-person proceedings through the end of next month. The mandate extends a previous order, which had halted most courtroom activity until March 31. “The [Supreme] Court has been monitoring the public health crisis very closely, and it is clear we need to extend the order,” Chief Justice Jeff Bivins wrote in a statement. LINK

State supreme court extends court closures until April 30 (Daily Memphian) The Tennessee Supreme Court has extended the date for most in-person court cases until next month, and the court also ordered criminal justice officials to come up with a plan to reduce the jail population during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a March 25 order, Chief Justice Jeff Bivins announced the suspension of most in-court hearings has been extended from the end of March until April 30. He added that reducing jail populations was a critical part of controlling the virus. LINK

Judicial emergency order extended; petition seeks release of detainees over COVID-19 concerns (News Sentinel) The Tennessee Supreme Court is extending its judicial state of emergency order suspending in-person court proceedings through the end of April, officials announced Wednesday in an ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic. “In light of ongoing concerns, the Tennessee Supreme Court hereby continues the suspension of in-person court proceedings and the extension of deadlines as set forth in this order,” Chief Justice Jeff Bivins wrote in an order. “We again emphasize that the local and state courts of the State of Tennessee are open and will remain open under all circumstances, subject to the provisions of this order,” it stated. LINK

Citing COVID-19 concerns, attorneys, groups petition Tennessee Supreme Court to release some prisoners (Times Free Press) More than three dozen groups and individuals, including Metro Nashville’s former public defender, have filed an emergency petition urging Tennessee Supreme Court justices to take action to reduce COVID-19 health risks in state prisons, local jails and juvenile detention centers by releasing prisoners they say represent low risks. In their petition, former Nashville public defender Dawn Deaner and groups including Chattanooga-based Mercy Junction, Redneck Revolt and Concerned Citizens for Justice are asking the court for directives they say “will protect the health and safety of the public (including incarcerated persons) from risks associated with COVID-19 outbreaks inside jails, juvenile detention centers, and prison facilities in Tennessee.” LINK

Emergency state Supreme Court petition seeks inmate releases (Daily Memphian) A petition has been filed that seeks the release of numbers of inmates from local jails and prisons as COVID-19 outbreaks begin to appear across Tennessee. An emergency petition filed with the Tennessee Supreme Court seeks the release of numbers of inmates from local jails and prisons as COVID-19 outbreaks begin to appear across the state. LINK

From trolley workers to aquarium employees, coronavirus-fueled layoffs mount in Tennessee (Tennessean) As COVID-19 spreads across the state, the layoffs are mounting. Hotel management company Vision Hospitality in Chattanooga is letting go of more than 750 workers, according to state filings. Platinum Companies, a Nashville hospitality development firm, is cutting more than 120 positions. Old Town Trolley Tours, which takes tourists through the streets of Nashville, the Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown Nashville, the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga and Holiday Inn Downtown Knoxville are also announcing significant job cuts. LINK

Coronavirus in Tennessee: Timeline of cases, closures and changes as COVID-19 moves in (Tennessean) Two days after deadly tornadoes devastated a swath of Middle Tennessee, a new threat was found to have already arrived in the state. In less than a month, daily life in Tennessee has changed significantly in the hope of slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. LINK

Photos: Coronavirus drive-thru testing in Tennessee (Tennessean) LINK

Photos: Gibson County, deputies go grocery shopping for those vulnerable to COVID-19 (Jackson Sun) LINK

Photos: Empty Memphis: Vacant scenes of the city during the COVID-19 public health crisis (Commercial Appeal) LINK

We can’t stockpile blood’: 204 Red Cross blood drives canceled in Tennessee amid coronavirus pandemic (Tennessean) While people are stockpiling toilet paper and ground beef, the American Red Cross is counting down the days until its blood supply runs dry. There have been 204 blood drives and more than 7,974 scheduled donations canceled in the Tennessee region due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, according to the American Red Cross.  “People are seeing things run out on the shelves at the store. Well, blood donations have an expiration date,” said Tiffany Taylor, spokesperson for the American Red Cross Blood Services Tennessee Region. “We can’t stockpile blood. We need blood now,” she said. LINK

Live at 9: Senator Brian Kelsey, MAS & financial help (WREG-TV Memphis) Senator Brian Kelsey on education: Senator Brian Kelsey joins us to address some of the educational concerns as Tennessee schools remain closed. LINK

Frist: Tennessee leaders responding ‘perfectly’ to coronavirus, nation needs to stay closed (Tennessean) Former U.S. Senator Bill Frist said Nashville and Tennessee leaders have responded “perfectly” to the spread of coronavirus and that it is “weeks too early” to reopen the nation for normal business. “The infection will get much worse and accelerate both here in Tennessee and around the country,” Frist said in a video statement published on Tuesday. “If we drop our commitment to social distancing at this time, today, I believe it will lead to catastrophic overload of our hospitals.” LINK

Bob Corker wants to push regions back to work, even as doctors urge more action to curb spread of the coronavirus (Tennessean) Millions of Americans are at home, heeding the advice of medical professionals and epidemiologists who have urged them to refrain from gathering in groups and to take unprecedented actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. But former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker thinks the nation needs to get back to work. For more than a year since his retirement, Corker has largely kept quiet on national affairs. Now, with COVID-19 spreading across the nation, he is again speaking out vocally about what he thinks should be done — and working behind the scenes to push his viewpoint. LINK

Rep. Cohen says help on the way as Congress continues work on financial relief bill (WREG-TV Memphis) Even for people who don’t have the coronavirus, the infection could be taking a financial toll on families. But it appears help is on the way, as Congress is finalizing plans to get money into the hands of most Americans. Cohen and his colleagues have been trying to hammer out an economic relief package. “It’s surreal,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) said. “It’s something we never would have imagined.” As the deal stands right now, most people in the Mid-South should start seeing stimulus money in their bank accounts very soon. LINK

State Rep. Hill vying to replace Phil Roe in Congress (WATE-TV Knoxville) State Rep. Timothy Hill has announced his candidacy for Congress. Rep. Hill, R-Blountville, has served in the Tennessee Legislature since 2012. Hill is running for Rep. Phil Roe’s 1st District seat. Roe announced Jan. 3 that he is stepping down after six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hill says he is running because he is a proven conservative and will be an ally to President Donald Trump. LINK

Hagerty event with Kudlow postponed (TN Journal) Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty’s tele-town hall with Larry Kudlow has been postponed because of the national economic council director’s role in hammering out a compromise over the coronavirus relief package in Congress. LINK

Eastman expects first quarter earnings to exceed expectations (Kingsport Times-News) Eastman announced on Wednesday the company’s solid financial position, which provides “a strong foundation” during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Kingsport-based global specialty products company highlighted the strength of its cash flow, balance sheet and sources of liquidity. “We remain confident that Eastman is well positioned financially thanks to the resilience of our cash flow, our solid balance sheet, and our significant sources of liquidity,” Board Chair and Chief Executive Officer Mark Costa said in a prepared release. LINK

BlueCross BlueShield Foundation of Tennessee donates $3.25 million to food banks (Tennessean) The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation is donating $3.25 million to multiple food banks across the state as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The gift will help Tennessee food banks meet the needs of the communities affected by the coronavirus, the business released in a statement Wednesday. Food banks often purchase supplies at a lower cost than people can, stretching to provide as many as four meals for each dollar they receive in cash donations. LINK

Local manufacturer donates 14,000 respirator masks to Memphis & Shelby County (Memphis Business Journal) A Memphis-based manufacturer of protective equipment just donated more than 14,000 N95 respirator masks to the City of Memphis and Shelby County. Radians manufactures and supplies personal protective equipment. Its hope is that the donation will help the local police and fire departments and aid the local governments as they set up COVID-19 test sites, CEO Mike Tutor said in a Wednesday, March 25, news release. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. … Our first responders greatly appreciate this and will put Radians respirators to good use,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said in the release. LINK

Bartlett business owner plans to give 1,500 meals to families in need (WMC-TV Memphis) Troubled by the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on families, Dustin Smith, owner of Smith’s Plumbing Services, purchased 50 spaghetti dinners at Wally Hatchet’s restaurant Monday and started dishing them out. He launched the Smith’s Plumbing Services Families-In-Need Lunch Giveaway. He hopes to feed as many as 250 people a day next week with the help of donations to the non-profit 901 Gives. “For every dollar donated, Smith’s Plumbing will match that donation dollar-for-dollar up to $5,000 total,” he said. LINK

Gaylord Opryland to temporarily suspend operations amid COVID-19 pandemic (WKRN-TV Nashville) Ryman Hospitality Properties is announcing the temporary closure of Gaylord Opryland Resort and four other Gaylord Hotels due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. said the closure is in addition to other company plans “to mitigate the operating and financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.” LINK

OPINION

Tennessee Voices, Episode 2: Sharon Roberson, CEO of YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee (Tennessean) Thank you for watching the second episode of the new Tennessee Voices videocast. The 20-minute program invites leaders, thinkers and innovators who have written guest columns for a USA TODAY Network – Tennessee publication to share their insights and wisdom with me and our viewers. My guest for this episode is Sharon Roberson, president and CEO of the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. LINK

Ted Evanoff: No need to hoard: Kruger Memphis makes toilet paper as coronavirus raises demand (Commercial Appeal) In this time of crisis, it’s no secret Americans cherish their toilet paper. That’s why Walmart’s supplier of White Cloud toilet paper — the KTG USA mill in Memphis — is running strong. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s shelter-at-home executive order is set to take effect at 6 p.m. Tuesday for most of the city’s 650,000 residents. But there’s no reason to hit the stores and hoard the rolls. LINK

Betsy Pickle: County to cover tests for uninsured residents (KnoxTNToday) There is some good news on the coronavirus front this week. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs announced Wednesday that the county would pay for COVID-19 testing for uninsured residents through the Knox County Health Department. “One of the most important things we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is extensive testing,” Jacobs said. “As we continue to keep our community protected, we’re happy to help people who cannot afford that cost.” LINK

Column: Remote Control (Memphis Flyer) … Even as local governments keep buzzing along via electronic means, the state legislature has taken a hiatus, opting to call a recess last week instead of formally adjourning, and thereby maintaining at least the prospect of returning to work after a target date of June 1st. Left hanging were such unresolved issues as open-carry gun legislation favored by GOP Governor Bill Lee, the “fetal heartbeat” measure and other anti-abortion measures, a revived effort to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee, and a long-deferred measure to expand the status and medical wherewithal of nurse practitioners. LINK

Bill Freeman: Nashville Strong: Our teachers and leaders astound with their care and support (Nashville Scene) With the threat of coronavirus still upon us, the fears swirling around us cannot be erased … The Tennessee General Assembly showed remarkable foresight and practicality when they largely put aside partisan disagreement in order to accelerate their session and pass a fiscal budget. The budget focuses on emergency care and basic fiscal needs, allowing our state government to operate in emergency situations such as this one. Their recent news conference proved yet again that Tennesseans will and have always come together in times of need to protect each other. LINK

Column: Ignore Bob Corker (Nashville Scene) Bob Corker is not a doctor or an epidemiologist. Bob Corker has emerged from retirement in the middle of a pandemic to contradict doctors and public health experts in the name of The Economy. In an interview with The Tennessean, Corker joins the chorus of conservatives singing along with President Donald Trump’s new tune: bring a swift end to the various shutdowns and social distancing protocols that have been put in place in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It’s time to plug the economy back in, they argue. LINK

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