Tuesday, November 17

Need a coronavirus test before Thanksgiving? Tennessee expands hours at testing sites (Tennessean) Ahead of Thanksgiving next week, Tennessee is expanding its coronavirus testing efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend attending a gathering outside members of your household. The CDC reported that small gatherings are contributing to the spike in coronavirus cases. The state health department and the Tennessee National Guard are expanding testing hours at 35 county health departments. LINK

Tennessee extending hours at some COVID-19 testing sites before, after Thanksgiving (WZTV-TV Nashville) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s office has announced the extension of hours at select coronavirus testing sites before and after the Thanksgiving holiday. Operating hours at 35 county health departments will be extended from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 23 and Nov. 30. On Monday, Tennessee reported record-breaking case numbers in a single day. 7,951 cases were reported, bringing the state’s total to 318,888. LINK

Tennessee extending hours for COVID-19 testing bookend Thanksgiving holiday (WRCB-TV Chattanooga) The Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee National Guard will extend operating hours at 35 county health departments for COVID-19 testing leading up to and just after Thanksgiving. COVID-19 testing will be provided at the Bradley, Franklin, McMinn, and Rhea County health departments on November 23 and 30 from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. County health departments will be closed and will not provide COVID-19 testing from November 26 to November 28. A list of statewide COVID-19 testing sites is available on the TN Dept. of Health’s website. LINK

Reconnect to Workforce partnership (WDEF-TV Chattanooga) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced a partnership with Tennessee Reconnect and the Department of Labor and Workforce. “Obviously no one expected there to be a pandemic this year,” said Justin Groenert. This partnership will allow people who are unemployed to focus on education as their job. “These individuals do not have to be continuously seeking employment,” said Marsha Goolesby-Barker. “That is the key aspect of this initiative as long as they’re in school they do not have to be looking for employment.” The partnership with Tennessee Reconnect will allow people to gain an education at a community college or technical school with no tuition costs. LINK

Orange Heart Memorial honoring Vietnam Veterans unveiled, dedicated in Springfield (Tennessean) Hundreds gathered in Springfield last week for the official unveiling and dedication of the new Orange Heart Memorial at Springfield Memorial Gardens. The Memorial will serve as tribute to the more than 2.7 million Vietnam Veterans who served from 1955 – 1975, the men and women who served and later died as a result of their service, the more than 2.6 million who were exposed to herbicidal warfare and the more than 3.4 million who served in Southeast Asia … Pickler praised the work being done on behalf of the Foundation, by Kumar in the House of Representatives, and Kerry Roberts in the Tennessee Senate. He also thanked Governor Bill Lee. LINK

House Republicans to gather this week for overnight retreat, despite COVID concerns (Tennessean) Tennessee House Republicans are holding an in-person, overnight retreat this week, days before they will all assemble again in Nashville next week for a second caucus gathering just before Thanksgiving. The House Republican Caucus will gather Thursday, Friday and Saturday for their annual retreat, this time at the lodge at Pickwick Landing State Park in Hardin County. Among the scheduled guests are Gov. Bill Lee, the state’s health commissioner and the secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer. LINK

Report: Pfizer picks Tennessee for COVID-19 vaccine pilot delivery program (AP) Pfizer, which announced last week its COVID-19 vaccine was shown to be 90% effective based on early testing, has launched a pilot delivery program in four states, Reuters reports. New Mexico, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas were reportedly picked due to their size, population diversity, immunization infrastructure and need to reach people in both rural and urban settings. LINK

Tennessee Reports Nearly 8,000 New Coronavirus Cases In A Single Day, Breaking Past Record High (WPLN Radio Nashville) Tennessee set a new record for daily coronavirus cases Monday, with nearly 8,000 positive tests reported in the past 24 hours. The previous one-day high was just under 6,000 new infections. The news comes as cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all surging in the state. Some hospitals are even putting elective procedures back on pause to make more space for COVID patients. LINK

COVID-19 update: State shatters single-day record (Nashville Post) The Tennessee Department of Health has reported a total of 318,888 cases of COVID-19 across the state, up a record 7,951 cases since Sunday on 60,862 new test results — a 13.1 percent positivity rate. Of the total number of cases, 11,201 people have been hospitalized and 3,923 have died — up 60 and 30, respectively, from the numbers 24 hours earlier. LINK

Tennessee reports record new virus cases at nearly 8,000 (AP) Tennessee has reported nearly 8,000 new coronavirus cases. Monday’s numbers top the previous record set last Monday by more than 2,000. Meanwhile, a Tennessee physician’s group continued to push Republican Gov. Bill Lee for a statewide mask mandate. The push came on the heels of a Vanderbilt University report last week that found Tennessee counties without mask mandates are on average seeing COVID-19 death rates double or more those in counties with mask mandates. LINK

COVID-19 cases surpass 318,000 in Tennessee (WVLT-TV Knoxville) The Tennessee Department of Health reported 318,888 total COVID-19 cases in the state as of November 16. The amount of cases increased by 7,951, according to the health department. The highest increase since the pandemic began, WTVF reported. You can see a map of cases here. 271,864 patients have recovered or been labeled as “inactive” and 3,923 people in Tennessee have died from the virus with 1,810 current hospitalizations. LINK

COVID-19: State, region report record number of new cases (Johnson City Press) The state and region reported a record number of new novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections on Monday, as Tennessee shattered its previous record of 5,919 by more than 2,000 cases, while Northeast Tennessee topped its record of 472 by 24. Both previous records were set last week in an ongoing surge of new cases that has both Tennessee and its Northeast region on pace for a record number of new infections by the end of the month. LINK

Surge in Hamilton Co. COVID-19 cases increases need for testing, raises result wait time (WTVC-TV Chattanooga) The ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases has increased the need for testing in Hamilton County – and it’s changing how long you may have to wait to get results. The state of Tennessee saw a record number of new cases reported Monday, with nearly 8,000 additional cases and 30 new deaths statewide. Monday’s numbers top the previous record set last Monday by more than 2,000. LINK

Tennessee reports record-breaking daily COVID-19 case increase, active cases (WMC-TV Memphis) Tennessee Department of Health reported a record-breaking COVID-19 case increase of 7,951 new cases across the state with 30 additional deaths. The daily positivity rate coming in at about 13%. TDH says there have been over 318,000 total cases in Tennessee and 3,923 deaths. Local, state and national leaders have expressed concern about the numbers being reported throughout the fall COVID-19 surge with numbers skyrocketing across the country. State health officials say there are also 271,864 inactive or recovered cases across the state bringing the total number of active cases to more than 43,000. LINK

COVID-19 deaths, clusters climb in East Tennessee nursing homes (WVLT-TV Knoxville) The Tennessee Department of Health reported more deaths and COVID-19 cases at area long-term care facilities in East Tennessee. As of Monday, November 16, there were 17 additional deaths across multiple nursing homes: LINK

As COVID-19 cases rise, more East Tennessee students are learning virtually (WBIR-TV Knoxville) For the past few weeks, COVID-19 cases have been rising steadily in East Tennessee. Now, schools are feeling the impacts. Jefferson County Schools announced additional district-wide distance learning days “due to increases in COVID-19 cases.” All students will learn remotely from Nov. 18 to Nov. 24 to help slow the spread. As of last Monday, the director of schools told 10News there are nine active cases among students and nine among staff members. In total, an additional 138 people had recovered. LINK

These are the Hamilton County schools affected most, least by COVID-19 closures (Times Free Press) Many Hamilton County Schools with the most COVID-19 closures thus far are among the schools with the lowest percentages of students learning in-person this semester, according to a Times Free Press review of school data. The Times Free Press analyzed fall enrollment numbers from the district to determine if campuses that had higher percentages of students select in-person learning were more likely to experience a COVID-19 closure, which occurs when a positive case is identified. LINK

Coronavirus cases in children rise, Tennessee officials can’t link rise to Halloween (WVLT-TV Knoxville) The Tennessee Department of Health reported Monday cases in children and teenagers have risen since Halloween. According to TDOH, the ages affected are 0 through 10 and ages 11 through 20. TDOH says the department cannot specifically attribute the increases to trick or treating or Halloween parties. LINK

Coronavirus in Tennessee: 203 active cases in state prisons (Tennessean) The Tennessee Department of Correction reported Monday that there were 203 active cases in state prisons. The majority of the cases are West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning where TDOC is reporting 150 active cases. Results for 219 tests are pending. According to TDOC, 27 people incarcerated in state facilities have died after being diagnosed with the the virus. Two TDOC employees have died. LINK

Tennessee sees dramatic rise in gun-related violent crimes, homicides during COVID-19 (Times Free Press) While Tennessee’s violent crime figures fell 8.4% overall during the first seven months of the coronavirus pandemic, gun-related violent crimes rose 25% and aggravated assaults with a firearm jumped more than 40%. In the stand-alone category of homicide with a firearm, meanwhile, figures rose just shy of 50% during the March-through-September 2020 period over 2019, rising from 224 homicides last year during the seven-month period to 335 this year. LINK

Tennessee Hospital Chief: Sick Nurses And A Shortage Of Contractors Are Limiting Capacity (WPLN Radio Nashville) Tennessee hospitals are calling off elective procedures again, doubling up hospital rooms and converting recovery rooms into intensive care units, according to the Tennessee Hospital Association. These changes come as hospitals are seeing twice as many patients with COVID-19 as they were in early October, surpassing 1,800 current hospitalizations on Monday. Rooms and beds haven’t been the problem in Tennessee. It’s the nurses and doctors to staff them. LINK

Tennessee doctor fears there won’t be enough staff to fight COVID-19 if cases continue to rise (WVLT-TV Knoxville) Last week there were nearly 27,000 new COVID cases in Tennessee with 187 additional deaths. That’s the worst weekly total the state has seen during this pandemic, and one doctor is calling for people to go back to practicing social distancing and mask-wearing. Wendy Long, the CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association, says that right now we are at the worst statistical spot the state has been all year. She says that if things continue, hospitals will begin to have to turn patients away and there won’t be enough frontline workers to help those in need. LINK

Ballad Health: Hospitals ‘experiencing our highest number of COVID-19 inpatient cases since pandemic began’ (WJHL-TV Johnson City) Officials with Ballad Health released the system’s latest COVID-19 numbers on Monday, announcing there are now 247 patients receiving treatment for coronavirus at Ballad hospitals. According to Ballad Health, Monday’s number of hospitalized patients again broke the health system’s record of inpatients with COVID-19. LINK

‘We know you’re tired. But, we cannot give up.’ Hospital leaders ask Memphians to keep fighting COVID-19 (Commercial Appeal) As new COVID-19 cases and pandemic fatigue continue to grow in Shelby County and around the country, the leaders of the Memphis area’s four major hospital systems are imploring people to continue to wear masks and social distance and warning “the virus wins if we give up.” The message comes amid a continuing surge of cases in Shelby County. On Monday, the Shelby County health department reported 686 new COVID-19 cases and the total number of virus-related fatalities rose to 613. There were 361 COVID-19 patients in Memphis-area hospitals Sunday evening. LINK

Healthcare Leaders: “We Know You’re Tired. But We Cannot Give Up.” (Memphis Flyer) Leaders of the area’s four largest hospital systems warned of future business closings if COVID-19 cases “slip far out of our control” and urged citizens to recommit to personal health precautions in a joint statement issued Monday. Reginald Coopwood, president and CEO of Regional One Health; Jason Little, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care; Michael Ugwueke, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; and Sally Deitch, Memphis market president and CEO, of Saint Francis Hospital – Memphis and Saint Francis Hospital – Bartlett all signed onto what was presented as an op-ed piece. LINK

‘There’s no other way’: Hamilton County mayor considers mask renewal amid divided feedback (Times Free Press) With Hamilton County’s now 4-month-old mask mandate set to expire this week, County Mayor Jim Coppinger is considering extended regulations, despite his own political beliefs and fractured citizen feedback. In a Times Free Press survey of 267 Hamilton County voters in the November general election, about half of the citizens interviewed said they agree with the degree of regulation in the county to prevent the virus. LINK

Hamilton County mayor to announce whether or not he will extend mask mandate this week (WRCB-TV Chattanooga) Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger will announce this week if he will extend the county’s mask mandate. The current mandate will expire on Sunday. Shoppers over the weekend witnessed an all too familiar scene, empty toilet paper shelves. It’s an indicator that shoppers may be anticipating another shutdown. Mayor Coppinger said a shutdown could come from a higher level but he doesn’t plan on issuing one. “But from the local level, we saw those 30 days did to our economy back in April, it put businesses out of business, our small businesses.” LINK

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke calls for mask mandate across Tennessee (WTVC-TV Chattanooga) As coronavirus cases surge across the state and country, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke says it is time Tennessee followed Hamilton County’s example and put a mask mandate in place. Hamilton County leaders are on the verge of announcing whether the mask mandate will be extended past November 22nd. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and other officials are set to hold a news conference on Thursday to address the mandate. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has left the decision on a mask mandate to local counties. Hamilton County is the only part of our area with one in effect. LINK

Several Mid-South counties under mandatory mask mandate (WMC-TV Memphis) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says mask mandates will be decided by the individual county mayor. Over the last few days more West Tennessee county mayors made the decision to bring back their mandatory mask mandates. Madison, Lauderdale and Dyer counties now require anyone in public to mask up. The decision comes as the positivity rates in those counties are soaring well above the targeted 10% put in place by the state health department. Lauderdale County is clocking it at a nearly 34% positivity rate in the past seven days. Shelby County has had a mask mandate since July with a positivity rate of about 11%. LINK

City mayors fight uphill battle dealing with COVID-19 guideline limitations (WBIR-TV Knoxville) In a recent tweet, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon called on Governor Bill Lee to have a “course correction” in response to the coronavirus, to save lives. “It’s all increasing at an accelerating pace so when I said we need a course correction we need to do something to change the course of these horrible trends, I think messaging from our governor will help people understand,” said Mayor Indya Kincannon. LINK

White House COVID Task Force backs off call for Tennessee mask mandate (WTVF-TV Nashville) A month ago, COVID-19 was so bad in Tennessee that even the White House Coronavirus Task was insisting that a statewide mask mandate was needed. Now, things are even worse. But NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered that, for reasons that just aren’t clear, the White House has now backed off that recommendation. Doctors say the change in approach does not appear to be based on science. “Clearly, you wonder: has the White House Task Force changed? We are seeing a lot of those members less and less,” said Franklin Dr. Aaron Milstone. LINK

Tweens experiencing cyberbullying during the pandemic (WSMV-TV Nashville) New studies are showing more children are being cyberbullied during the pandemic, and it’s happening even earlier than teenage years. Tweens — children ages 9 to 12 — are being bullied online, on social media and through gaming apps. Dr. Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center says new research shows one in five tweens have experienced it. “It is affecting them in their daily lives in terms of how they feel about themselves, their relationships with their friends, their schoolwork,” Dr. Patchin said. LINK

As TN’s case numbers rise, Columbia’s mayor calls on Gov. Lee to issue mask mandate (WZTV-TV Nashville) A city mayor in Middle Tennessee is joining the voices calling on Governor Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate, saying that passing the responsibility down to county leadership just isn’t working. According to the Tennessee Department of Health’s website, Maury County has been on the White House’s “Red Zone” list since the beginning of November. But still, no mask mandate there. However, it’s not action from county leadership that City of Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder wants to see; he wants action from Governor Lee. LINK

COVID-19 testing creating traffic tie-ups across the state (WTVF-TV Nashville) On the heels of the largest-ever single-day increase in COVID-19 cases across Tennessee, testing sites around the state are seeing lines so long, they’re having to call in police officers to help with traffic control. For one example, health officials in Maury County say at the busiest times at their drive-thru testing site, cars actually will back up onto the highway, something health officials say they’ve had to call the police to help with. LINK

University of Tennessee hopes to raise $2.5 million in 24 hours. Here’s how you can help (News Sentinel) This week, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville has an ambitious goal to meet — raising $2.5 million in 24 hours with a focus on helping students who have been impacted by COVID-19. As part of the annual Big Orange Give fundraising event, UT is asking donors to donate to the school on Wednesday. This year, the focus will be on how donations directly help UT students, faculty and staff, said Lauren Herbstritt, director of advancement and annual giving at UT Knoxville. One of those areas of focus is the student emergency fund, which goes towards helping students facing financial difficulties. LINK

‘Click it or Ticket’ campaign puts extra enforcement on Tennessee roads (WTVF-TV Nashville) Law enforcement officers across Tennessee are stepping up enforcement on the roads this holiday season with the “Click it or Ticket” campaign. The campaign involves police, deputies and troopers across the state for extra enforcement of seat belt laws now through the weekend after Thanksgiving. Troopers told NewsChannel 5 seat belt usage has been a surprising problem this year after record high usage in recent years. In 2020 so far, 1,054 people have died on Tennessee roads – 51 more people killed were not wearing seatbelts compared to last year. LINK

‘Click It or Ticket’ seat belt campaign launches as holidays near (WBBJ-TV Jackson) The Tennessee Highway Safety Office is partnering with local agencies for the Click It or Ticket campaign, which addresses seat belt safety. Haywood County Sheriff’s Department is one of many local law enforcement agencies taking part in this campaign. “We will do our part as far as having at least a few nights during this emphasis time to have additional deputies working highways and local streets here in Haywood County,” said Haywood County Sheriff Billy Garrett, Jr. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in 2018, there were 9,778 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes across the U.S. LINK

Tenn. collects half a mill. in taxes in the first week of online sports betting (WTVF-TV Nashville) In the first week of online sports betting in Tennessee, the state collected more than half a million dollars in taxes. The Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) released the wagers and taxes from online sports betting from Nov. 1 – 8 on Monday afternoon. TEL oversees the licensing and regulation of online sports wagering in Tennessee. “In our role as the regulator of this industry we are focused on establishing and supporting a responsible and competitive sports wagering program in Tennessee,” TEL President and CEO Rebecca Paul Hargrove said in a press release. LINK

$27M in online wagers placed in first week of Tennessee sports gaming (TN Journal) Bettors placed $27 million worth of wagers in the first week after the launch of only sports gambling in Tennessee. Tennessee Lottery head Rebecca Hargrove said Monday that sportsbooks paid out $23.9 million, leaving them with an adjusted gross income of $2.5 million for the period covering Nov. 1 through Nov. 8. The state’s tax on that amount totaled $509,000. Of those tax collections, 80% will be deposited into the Lottery’s education account, 15% goes to cities and counties on a per-capita basis, and 5% is dedicated to gambling addiction treatment programs within the state Department of Mental Health. LINK

$27 million bet in Tennessee in first week (WDEF-TV Chattanooga) Tennessee’s new sports betting law went into affect in the first week of November (during the election). The Tennessee Lottery is regulating the online wagering companies handling the bet. And they have now reported the gambling numbers from the first week. Gamblers put down $27,402,000 in bets which translates to $509,000 in state taxes. 80% of the tax goes to the Lottery for Education account. 15% goes to the state General Fund. 5% goes to state programs for gambling treatment. LINK

Tenn. collects $500,000 in taxes in first week of online sports betting (WVLT-TV Knoxville) In the first week of online sports betting in Tennessee, the state collected more than $500,000 in taxes, WTVF reported. According to the Tennessee Education Lottery, wagers and taxes from online sports betting from Nov. 1 through Nov. 8 were released Monday afternoon. “In our role as the regulator of this industry we are focused on establishing and supporting a responsible and competitive sports wagering program in Tennessee,” TEL President and CEO Rebecca Paul Hargrove said in a press release. “These numbers are encouraging as we work to protect the consumer, promote fairness in sports and regulate this new Tennessee industry that provides critical funds for education, as well as local governments and problem gambling services.” LINK

Tennessee gun dispossession laws still allow offenders to continue their abuse (WZTV-TV Nashville) A loophole in Tennessee law is allowing violent criminals to keep firearms. Of course, that is not how the law is supposed to work, but a provision allowing for “third-party de-possession” makes it possible for offenders to trick the system and never actually give up their weapons. Tennessee law says felons or other violent offenders have three options for giving up their firearms: LINK

‘A historical effort’: Advocates make new push to end Tennessee Walking Horse soring (Tennessean) The controversy surrounding Tennessee Walking Horses and the abusive, banned training practice known as soring has been anything but quiet in recent years. The practice causes the animals pain each time they step so they lift their front legs higher and often includes the use of caustic chemicals cooked into the skin. It can also involve shoving objects between the hoof and stacked shoes. Some trainers also intentionally cut and brace the horses’ tails so they sit higher. The horses are placed in highly-competitive shows around the United States and have been a staple in Southern traditions since the 1930s. LINK

Digging into the history of “Right-to-Work” as Tennessee considers new amendment (WBIR-TV Nashville) The Tennessee State Legislature is poised to pass a constitutional amendment in the wake of this year’s election, an amendment which makes “Right-to-Work laws” a part of the state’s constitution. What are Right-to-Work laws? Workplacefairness.org says, “most Right-to-Work laws prohibit labor unions and employers from entering into contracts that only employ unionized workers for the jobs in the contract.” LINK

Farmer drops challenge of Lamberth for majority leader (TN Journal) State Rep. Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville) is dropping his bid for House majority leader, according to a message to GOP colleagues obtained by the The Tennessee Journal. Farmer cites the “fantastic” outcome of this month’s elections in his decision to give up his challenge of Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) for the No. 2 leadership position in the chamber. Republicans held on to all 73 House seats they came into the election with. LINK

Democrats face off for House leadership position (Nashville Post) At least two Nashville-based state House members are seeking the open position of House Democratic Caucus chair. Reps. John Ray Clemmons and Vincent Dixie have both told their colleagues they are seeking the position being vacated by fellow Nashville Rep. Mike Stewart. Stewart was re-elected to the House but decided to step down as caucus chair. Democrats will remain in the super-minority next year, as they held on to the same 26 seats they held during the previous term. LINK

Johnson City school board hopes to talk pandemic challenges with legislators (Johnson City Press) Funding, testing topics likely to be addressed at December gathering. The Johnson City Board of Education will meet with legislators on Dec. 10 to discuss a variety of topics, including school funding and testing concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent Steve Barnett said the meeting will allow the board’s newly elected members to meet two new legislators and state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City. The meeting will bring new board members Dr. Ginger Carter, Beth Simpson and Kenneth Herb Greenlee together with incoming state Reps. Tim Hicks and Rebecca Alexander. All were elected on Nov 3. LINK

Sen. Alexander of Tennessee declares opposition to Trump Fed nominee Judy Shelton (Times Free Press) U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee on Monday became the third Republican senator to announce he opposes economist Judy Shelton’s nomination by President Donald Trump to be a governor of the Federal Reserve Board, saying he has reservations about her willingness to maintain the board’s independence. “I oppose the nomination of Judy Shelton because I am not convinced that she supports the independence of the Federal Reserve Board as much as I believe the Board of Governors should,” Alexander said in a statement. “I don’t want to turn over management of the money supply to a Congress and a President who can’t balance the federal budget.” LINK

Third Republican comes out against Judy Shelton for fed seat, complicating nomination (WRCB-TV Chattanooga) Efforts to get Judy Shelton confirmed to the Federal Reserve just got a little tougher as one prominent Republican announced his opposition Monday. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement that he will oppose President Donald Trump’s nomination of Shelton as a Fed governor, CNBC’s Ylan Mui reported. That brings to three the total of GOP senators against the pick, putting the chamber in a likely 50-50 deadlock. Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine are the others. Under a stalemate scenario, Vice President Mike Pence could step in and cast the tie-breaking vote. LINK

Senate committee approves $189 million for new Chattanooga federal courthouse (Times Free Press) U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, announced Monday that a bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee includes $189.1 million to construct a new federal courthouse to replace the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Chattanooga. Alexander, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement the bill “at my request” provides funding “to build a badly needed new courthouse in the largest and busiest judicial district in Tennessee.” LINK

Meharry Medical College president Dr. James Hildreth asked to submit resume to Biden transition team (Tennessean) Dr. James Hildreth, an infectious disease expert who leads Meharry Medical College, was asked to submit his resume to President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team for consideration as part of the incoming administration’s coronavirus response. Hildreth said last week he would accept a role if offered. “If I’m asked to assist in any way to get us through this crisis we are in, of course, I am going to do just that,” Hildreth said. LINK

Meharry’s Hildreth being considered for Biden’s Covid-19 response team (Nashville Business Journal) One of the voices leading Metro Nashville’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic could soon be doing the same on a national level. According to a Tennessean report, President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team has asked Dr. James Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical School, to submit his resume to be a part of the administration’s Covid-19 response. Last week, Hildreth said he would accept a role with Biden’s team if offered. LINK

Key human trafficking nonprofits Thistle Farms and End Slavery Tennessee partner for first time (Nashville Business Journal) Two prominent Nashville nonprofits have partnered for the first time in their mutual focus on human trafficking, a rapidly growing crime that was the subject of a recent Business Journal special report. Thistle Farms and End Slavery Tennessee are jointly running a safe house for survivors of trafficking, the organizations announced on Monday. The two-bedroom home, with four beds, will serve as short-term emergency housing for victims rescued from trafficking. LINK

Tennessee among worst states for recycling, study shows (Times Free Press) For this week’s America Recycles Day on Sunday, the website LawnStarter compared states for their waste management practices across 14 metrics, including the presence of plastic bags, recycling laws and the amount of recycling use and recycling facilities per capita. LINK


Pam Sohn: Our county’s mask mandate is still the best COVID-19 defense (Times Free Press) With COVID-19 cases and deaths surging, we’re both saddened and encouraged to learn that Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger believes “there’s no other way” but to consider extending the county’s mask mandate set to expire Sunday. We’re saddened that it has come to this because not enough people follow Hamilton County’s mask mandate and some have begun to let their guard down — leading, no doubt, to the surges of virus cases we now see. LINK

Column: Tennessee Must Fix System Allowing for Execution of Intellectually Disabled Defendant (Bloomberg Law) Tennessee may execute an intellectually disabled defendant convicted of murder. Memphis Law School professor Daniel Kiel says Pervis Payne never received a hearing on his disability due to a procedural technicality, showing how Tennessee’s system is tragically broken. The state legislature and the governor have the power to remedy this. LINK

Frank Cagle: Election shenanigans: Predictable or perplexing? (KnoxTNToday) Every election season I like to look up and read again excerpts of the most famous speech never given. It was allegedly used in a 1950 Democratic primary in the Florida panhandle. Its origin has been lost in the sands of time but my theory is that bored newspaper reporters, who had to listen to the same speech all day long, constructed it as a parody of mud-slinging politicians and stupid voters. George Smathers won the senate seat over Claude Pepper allegedly by telling voters that his opponent “openly masticated in front of his parents” was known in Washington as a “shameless extrovert” whose brother was “a homo sapiens” and that his wife was a known “thespian” before her marriage and was paid to perform on public stages. LINK

Column: The Grand Old Pity Party (Nashville Scene) By the time you read this, some top Tennessee Republicans may have acknowledged the obvious: Democrat Joe Biden is the next president of the United States. But we’re not holding our breath. The most powerful people in Tennessee — including Gov. Bill Lee, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Sen.-elect Bill Hagerty — have spent the days since Election Day (and especially since Nov. 7, when major media outlets called the race for Biden) sowing distrust. They’ve refused to accept the results of an election that Republican election officials, independent observers, courts across the country and even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have all deemed overwhelmingly fair and secure. LINK

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