Thursday, November 19

Genuine Parts Company to invest $50 million, hire 250 people for Middle Tennessee facility (Nashville Business Journal) On Tuesday, the state of Tennessee announced more jobs coming to Middle Tennessee. Genuine Parts Company, an automotive and industrial parts distributor, is opening a new distribution facility in Lebanon, according to a news release. The facility is a $50 million investment and will create 250 jobs in the region over the next five years. “As our economy continues to recover, major investments like this from Genuine Parts Company are even more vital for our state,” Gov. Bill Lee said in the release. “I’d like to thank such a storied company for investing in Wilson County and being part of our efforts to get Tennessee’s economy back on track.” LINK

August Bioservices to expand Nashville operations, create 180 jobs over next 5 years (WTVF-TV Nashville) Gov. Bill Lee announced that biotech company August Bioservices, LLC will expand its operations in Nashville. The company will invest $64.7 million and create 180 jobs over the next five years. CEO Jenn Adams said the first phase of the investment will focus on renovating the company’s existing facilities, which should be completed by 2021. The project will add “high-value technologies” like lyophilization (the process of freeze drying) and terminal sterilization to its manufacturing capabilities. LINK

Will a mask commercial entice you to wear one? Tennessee Governor Bill Lee hopes so (WATN-TV Memphis) The new installment of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s mask campaign, “Face It, Masks Fight Covid-19,” features an older Tennessean masking up so he can continue doing what he loves.  “I’ve worked my family’s land for years. My diabetes and high blood pressure have never held me back. I never miss a harvest. I never miss a Sunday service. And I never miss a Sunday dinner. And I always support my community,” the man said in the commercial. “But COVID-19 could change that. I choose to live my life, that’s why I wear a mask. Face it. Masks fight COVID-19.” LINK

Tennessee Economists Project No Big Declines In Tax Revenue Next Year (WPLN Radio Nashville) Economists from around Tennessee presented an array of projections Wednesday to the State Funding Board, estimating how tax revenues will change over the next couple of years. Professor William Fox from The University of Tennessee Knoxville tells officials he expects revenues to go up this year by about a half percent, but warns not to be overly optimistic. “One needs to be cautious,” he says, “This is not suggesting that revenues are growing. It’s just that they’re almost keeping up with inflation.” LINK

‘Fight Flu TN’ effort gets free flu shots to Tennesseans (WTVF-TV Nashville) Tennesseans are urged to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible, in an effort to prevent the “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and influenza. Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health kicks off its “Fight Flu TN” vaccination effort. All 95 Tennessee counties will have sites where people can get a free flu shot. There will be 107 sites and many of them will offer drive-thru options. Health officials say if Tennesseans get vaccinated it can help them stay healthy and help our hospitals not become overwhelmed. “If you reduce the incidents of flu you’re going open to up our healthcare facilities to be able to handle the sick individuals they serve every day,” said Paul Peterson, the Director of the Tennessee Department of Health’s Emergency Preparedness Program. LINK

Education Commissioner speaks with News4 about COVID-19 cases in schools (WSMV-TV Nashville) School districts across Middle Tennessee are at a crossroads tonight. Hundreds of new coronavirus cases among students and staff have districts facing difficult choices about how to proceed. It’s got some wondering if the state did enough to support districts to begin with. News 4 spoke exclusively with Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. Schwinn says this year has been a challenge, but also she feels good about how things are going. Monday, the Tennessee Education Association sent Governor Lee and Schwinn a letter, voicing their concerns about the state of education and their staff’s safety. LINK

TDOE grant to improve internet access for Washington County, Tenn. Students (WJHL-TV Johnson City) Washington County Schools will purchase more than 200 internet hotspots for students to improve internet access as school systems continue to rely on virtual learning. The school system will buy 209 Kajeet Smartspots thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Education. The devices will be distributed to students how do not have internet access. The school system says the hotspots provide filtered internet access, the same way school system internet is protected. LINK

Schools don’t operate in a bubble, and Knoxville’s COVID-19 spike may have real consequences (News Sentinel) Knox County Schools are not immune to the effects of community surges in COVID-19 cases. Even if students wear masks all the time in class and wash their hands frequently, the actions of their family members can eventually lead to school closures. In schools, it’s a snowball effect. And Knox County’s dangerous spike is especially worrisome. More people sick means more quarantines and that means more teacher absences. The district has struggled all school year with a substitute teacher shortage. LINK

State reviewing Tennessee Education Assoc. letter to Gov. Lee calling for more protections in classrooms (WATE-TV Knoxville) Tennessee continues to see increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths from COVID-19, Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown called on Gov. Bill Lee to provide more protections for educators and students. Brown spoke to WATE 6 On Your Side Wednesday shared more details about why she sent the letter, on behalf of the Tennessee Education Association. “What we’re seeing is districts across the state are doing the best they can without any strong leadership or any guidance from the state,” said Brown. LINK

Amid staff shortages and rising virus cases, TEA calls on Lee to do more to help educators (WBIR-TV Knoxville) With staff shortages and COVID-19 cases on the rise, the Tennessee Education Association is calling on Gov. Bill Lee to take stricter safety measures. TEA President Beth Brown sent the letter Monday. The association represents thousands of educators in the state. TEA said cases among staff in Tennessee schools are higher than the infection rates of their surrounding communities. LINK

Tenn. teachers union demands hazard pay, statewide mask mandate (WVLT-TV Knoxville) The Tennessee Education Association released a list of demands for Governor Bill Lee as COVID-19 cases spike across the state. Tennessee’s largest organization representing educators throughout the state sent a letter to Lee Monday encouraging him to take action. “According to the data, COVID active case rates of school staff are consistently higher-sometimes double- the rate of the community those schools serve,” TEA President Beth Brown said. “Our number one priority has always been the health, safety and well-being of Tennessee’s students and educators.” LINK

Sevierville woman charged with TennCare fraud (WATE-TV Knoxville) A Sevierville woman has now been charged with TennCare fraud after being accused of forging a doctor’s letter for a prescription drug. The Tennessee Bureau Investigation investigators determined Raquel Bousegard, 39, forged a doctor’s letter to obtain prior authorization for a prescription drug through TennCare. She allegedly submitted the letter to TennCare during the appeal process, when it was found that the documents were not legitimate. “The TennCare program is designed to provide benefits for individuals who need the services and medications provided through the proper and legal avenues,” Inspector General Kim Harmon said. “The OIG will continue to pursue those attempting to take advantage of our Medicaid system.” LINK

After promising early results, Tennessee outlines vaccine distribution timeline (WSMV-TV Nashville) With Pfizer soon expected to request emergency authorization with the FDA for their COVID-19 vaccine, state health leaders are outlining when the vaccine could reach Tennesseans. “After that final decision is issued, vaccine distribution to states could occur in as short as 24 hours,” Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health said. “Once we have the vaccine product in hand here in Tennessee we will begin deploying our distribution plan immediately.” State health leaders stress that the vaccine will not initially be widely available, and that top priority will go to health care workers and first responders — specifically those deemed to be at high risk. LINK

Tenn. officials readying COVID-19 vaccine distribution network as cases continue to increase (WMC-TV Memphis) Wednesday the Shelby County Health Department said another round of business closures are looking increasingly likely as COVID-19 cases skyrocket. But amid that bad news, there’s word Tennessee may have some doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the state by December. Pfizer said Wednesday its vaccine is showing 95% efficacy, and Tennessee is one of four states picked for initial distribution tests. That comes as public health officials are more concerned about the significant transmission of the virus in Shelby County. LINK

Montgomery County extends mask mandate (WKRN-TV Nashville) Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett has announced he has extended the county’s mask mandate. The extended mask mandate goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. November 20 and expires at 12:01 a.m. on December 11. “It is important for us to stay the course and do our best to slow the spread of this virus, especially as we head into flu season. Wearing a mask is one easy way we can protect ourselves and others during this time,” said Mayor Durrett. LINK

Montgomery County extends mask mandate through Dec. 11 (WSMV-TV Nashville) Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett has extended the mask mandate for the county through 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 11. Durrett signed Emergency Order #23 that extends the wearing of face masks by all residents in the county. This emergency order includes a declaration of public health emergency and comes after continued discussions with the local health department and emergency services directors, Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts as well as several Middle Tennessee mayors. LINK

Wayne County Executive announces new mask mandate as COVID-19 concerns continue (WKRN-TV Nashville) Wayne County has issued a new mask mandate, according to a release from County Executive Jaime T. Mangubat. After consulting with the mayors of several municipalities within Wayne County, the School Superintendent and physicians, the Wayne County Executive of Tennessee issued a Declaration of Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cloth or face coverings that cover the nose and mouth are now required in Wayne County within all publicly-accessible areas of commercial business establishments. This includes in public outdoor areas where six-feet of distance cannot be maintained. LINK

Masks required while in public in Wayne County starting Wednesday night (WTVF-TV Nashville) Wayne County will implement a mask mandate starting at 11:59 p.m. on November 18. A mask covering the nose and mouth will be required when in public areas and outside when at least six-feet of distancing can’t be maintained. LINK

Sevier County extends mask mandate through Dec. 29 (WATE-TV Knoxville) Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters announced the decision Wednesday. “Due to the rising number of cases in our county and region, I feel it is necessary to continue the mandate,” Waters said. “I have met with city and county leaders, health officials, local businesses, and tourism officials, and our goal is to protect the health of the residents, employees, and visitors of Sevier County.” Waters last extended the mandate less than three weeks ago. That extension was to be in place until Nov. 30. LINK

Sevier County mask mandate extended through Dec. 29 (WVLT-TV Knoxville) Sevier County officials announced the county’s mask mandate has been extended through December 29. “Due to the rising number of cases in our county and region, I feel it is necessary to continue the mandate,” said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters. “I have met with city and county leaders, health officials, local businesses, and tourism officials, and our goal is to protect the health of the residents, employees, and visitors of Sevier County.” The previous mask mandate was set to expire November 30. You can find other executive orders for the county here. LINK

Mayor Coppinger announces update on mask mandate Thursday (WTVC-TV Chattanooga) Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger will announce Thursday morning whether or not the county-wide mask mandate will be extended. There have been several recent developments regarding COVID-19 in our area. In the last week, we’ve seen seen COVID-19 cases reach new highs nationally and locally. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has called for a statewide mask mandate, and the White House has released another weekly report urging Tennessee leaders to take serious action. The White House document obtained by ABC news said 99 percent of all counties in Tennessee have moderate or high levels of community transmission—putting the state as a whole in the red zone. LINK

Doctor: Choices this Thanksgiving determine who will have a seat at the table next year (WZTV-TV Nashville) While 2020’s holiday celebrations may be top of mind for some, one doctor wants Tennesseans to visualize next year’s Thanksgiving dinner. “I want everybody listening to picture next year with their friends and family, grandparents and parents, brothers and sisters and neighbors, who you want to spend next year’s Thanksgiving with, who you want to see around the table,” Dr. Matt Semler said during a virtual news conference. He calls the choices made this holiday season “critical” – a word he’s all too familiar with. Semler, a critical care physician, has spent the majority of his year in Vanderbilt’s ICU COVID-19 unit. LINK

Nashville doctors demanding statewide mask mandate amid surging hospitalizations (WSMV-TV Nashville) Calls for a statewide mask mandate in Tennessee are being amplified by a group of doctors from Nashville. The group says COVID-19 metrics are higher than they’ve ever been, and called on Governor Bill Lee to take action on implementing a statewide mandate. The doctors even invited Governor Lee to join them inside a COVID-19 unit to see what it’s like. “As a front line physician, I implore you to listen to the heath experts and make the tough decisions,” said Dr. Katrina Green, Nashville emergency physician. LINK

Tennessee doctors plead with Gov. Lee to issue mask mandate amid staffing concerns (WZTV-TV Nashville) Tennessee doctors are pleading with Governor Bill Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate and enforce the Tennessee Pledge. They say a big problem now isn’t just dwindling hospital beds, but inadequate staffing to treat the sheer amount of people coming in. Middle Tennessee only has 12% of ICU beds open and 13% of floor beds open right now. For some of these doctors, it’s the first time in their careers they’ve had to turn away emergency patients, diverting ambulances because they don’t have the space or the staff. LINK

Tennessee doctors, once again, implore Gov. Bill Lee to issue mask mandate (WMC-TV Memphis) On the heels of Tennessee’s largest teachers union asking Governor Bill Lee for a statewide mask mandate, a group of the state’s doctors is following suit. They said metrics are higher than they have ever been, and hospitals are running out of space. The group of doctors requesting the statewide mask mandate is from Nashville. The effects thought of this pandemic are being seen across the state. On Wednesday a West Tennessee Hospital said it can no longer take transfer patients because there are too many people at the hospital. LINK

Lee holds line against imposing tougher requirements to combat virus ‘crisis’ (WBIR-TV Knoxville) Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday he won’t mandate how families gather at Thanksgiving, but he is encouraging people to make smart decisions about how they gather. Echoing what he’s said for months, the Tennessee governor also declared he’s not going to impose a mandate forcing people to wear a mask, but he thinks putting one on is a smart way to help stop the spread of the virus. A “crisis” is very much upon Tennessee, Lee acknowledged. “I encourage Tennesseans all across the state to recognize that we’re in a very difficult spot and to think hard about how they make personal decisions,” Lee said during a press briefing. LINK

‘We must change course’: Columbia mayor still frustrated over no statewide mask mandate (WZTV-TV Nashville) Inside Margaret Ziegler’s boutique, she sells trinkets and goodies but offers hope and a smile for free. “I love the people. I love the interaction with the people. I have so much fun,” said Ziegler, owner of 615 Vintage boutiques in Maury and Williamson County. When her Maury County store closed, she changed to online and curbside orders and worries another shutdown is looming now that the numbers are spiking again. “I’d have to figure it out. I’m not ready to not do this. I love this,” said Ziegler. LINK

Ahead of holidays, Tennessee spurns mask mandate requests (AP) As health experts ring alarm bells at surging virus case numbers, Tennessee is just one of 14 states poised to head into the holiday season without a statewide mask mandate. Gov. Bill Lee also has vowed he will not impose business restrictions nor issue guidance on how families should gather for next week’s Thanksgiving holiday amid the ongoing pandemic. The Republican has remained steadfast that he’s open to all options to battling COVID-19, reiterating for weeks that he hasn’t ruled anything out. LINK

Gov. Lee’s approach to ‘health crisis has failed’, health officials say (WHBQ-TV Memphis) Healthcare workers across Tennessee called out Governor Bill Lee to enforce a statewide mask mandate as COVID cases increased. Wednesday, medical professionals across the state held a public discussion to address their concerns. “Clearly Governor Lee, your fend for yourself approach to COVID-19 and this health crisis has failed. Your hospitals are at capacity, your healthcare workers are burning out, outbreaks are closing schools and harming businesses, your state is in critical condition,” said TN MD Amy Bono. Tennessee reported around 46 COVID-19 deaths a day, thousands are hospitalized with the virus, and the positivity rate is around 13 percent. LINK

Nashville ER Doctors: More Hospitals Are Diverting Patients, As COVID Hospitalizations Climb (WPLN Radio Nashville) As COVID-19 hospitalizations set new records nearly every day in Tennessee, doctors are speaking out about the dire situation they see in their emergency rooms with patients traveling hours to find a hospital that has space for them. Physicians from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Saint Thomas Health and TriStar spoke Wednesday on a video call, primarily reiterating their pleas for a statewide mask mandate. But they also revealed a more desperate situation than most hospital administrators have been sharing publicly. LINK

Jackson-Madison County General Hospital no longer accepting patient transfers as it nears max capacity (Jackson Sun) Jackson-Madison County General Hospital will no longer accept patient transfers due to a rise in coronavirus patients, West Tennessee Healthcare CEO James Ross announced Wednesday. The hospital reported treating 103 COVID-19 patients Wednesday as cases across West Tennessee continue to rise. In the past 10 days, the 20 counties making up rural West Tennessee surpassed 7,000 active cases for the first time since the pandemic began. That number exceeded 8,000 just days later. LINK

COVID spike closes hospital to transfer patients, disrupts school break schedule (WBBJ-TV Jackson) Jackson-Madison County General Hospital is officially closed to transfer patients. West Tennessee Healthcare CEO James Ross made the announcement Wednesday during the weekly COVID-19 press conference. “We’re not able to transfer even from our own facilities,” Ross said. “We do make some exceptions because we are the designated heart, as well as, stroke centers.” He says they typically transfer by ambulance about 50-60 patients a day. “We’re under what’s considered a capacity, census-wise, called ‘Critical Advisory,’” Ross said. The hospital currently has 573 patients, 103 of whom are COVID-positive. LINK

Group of Tennessee doctors call for mask mandate, urge Gov. Lee to go to COVID-19 unit (WBIR-TV Knoxville) A group of doctors is urging Governor Bill Lee to issue a mask mandate in Tennessee after the state reported one of its worst weeks during the COIVD-19 pandemic. Doctors held a virtual conference call where they shared their experiences in hospitals, treating people diagnosed with COVID-19. They were part of Protect My Care, a group of health professional advocates. The group is a part of a project from ForwardTN. LINK

‘Come and see’: Doctor invites Tenn. Governor to work ER shift during COVID-19 pandemic (WTVC-TV Chattanooga) As a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations places a strain on the medical community, one Nashville doctor is inviting Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to take a look inside an emergency room as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. Dr. Katrina Green has been practicing as an emergency physician in Nashville for the last nine years. This year, she will be working in the emergency room at TriStar Skyline for Thanksgiving weekend. “The healthcare system here in Tennessee is already under enormous strain, and I’m not the only one concerned about what things will look like in our hospitals two weeks after Thanksgiving if it’s already this bad now,” Dr. Green commented. LINK

White House pushes Tennessee restaurant limits as COVID-19 rates double (Times Free Press) While the White House focused on promising news around vaccine development, the weekly report from its COVID-19 task force to governors this week centered grimly on the “aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration.” For Tennessee, the report said, “Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies.” LINK

Ballad officials issue dire warning ahead of Thanksgiving (Johnson City Press) Ballad Health officials cautioned against gathering with people outside of your household on Thanksgiving during their weekly novel coronavirus (COVID-19) press briefing Wednesday. Ballad Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift warned that there’s “no reason to think we won’t see another dramatic increase” in the weeks after the holiday. “It’s honestly overwhelming — I’m extremely concerned, I’m more concerned about Thanksgiving probably than anything I’ve been concerned about because of where we’re currently at,” Swift said, adding “that we’re looking at some really concerning days ahead. “I think it’s going to get really hard over the next few weeks.” LINK

“Deeper and Unyielding”: White House task force urging TN to take serious actions against COVID-19 (WBIR-TV Knoxville) The White House Coronavirus Task Force is urging Tennessee leadership to take immediate action as COVID-19’s spread and health impact continues to worsen across the state. Virtually all metrics of serious concern — deaths from COVID-19, hospitalizations, positivity rates, and new cases — have become considerably worse in recent weeks across the state of Tennessee and U.S. LINK

Pfizer vaccine will be available to some in Tennessee Dec. 1, if approved (WKRN-TV Nashville) Pfizer announced Wednesday it plans to seek Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration “within days”. Infectious disease doctor David Aronoff with Vanderbilt explained the process has a few steps. “The FDA will receive lots of data, from in this case Pfizer, to review exactly the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. They will also have to share the data with the Advisory Committee of the Immunization Practices. The ACIP is the expert group that generally gives advice to the Federal Government about who should be the key people to receive a vaccine,” said Aronoff. LINK

Hamilton County Covid-19 has gotten dramatically worse in 10 days (WDEF-TV Chattanooga) We’ve been telling you now for a few weeks that Covid-19 cases are on the rebound again in our area. But the situation has gotten dramatically worse in the last week in Hamilton County. And we’re now seeing the worst numbers yet in the pandemic. The Health Department reports 259 new cases on Wednesday. That is the second highest climb yet and just one case below the all time high we set just last week. LINK

Tennessee defends policy to throw away P-EBT cards if families don’t retrieve them in 30 days (USA Today Tennessee Network) The Department of Human Services has given schools 30 days to distribute more than 240,000 pandemic meal cards to families, instructing schools to return the cards to the state for disposal after that point, despite the funds being valid until next fall. Outgoing DHS Commissioner Danielle Barnes defended the department’s policy on Tuesday, saying schools who believe they can’t distribute their thousands of Pandemic Electronics Benefit Transfer cards to families in the allotted time period could reach out to ask for more time, but the state would not be providing schools an extension “across the board.” LINK

Plaque honoring fallen TDOC administrator unveiled (WSMV-TV Nashville) A midstate prison recently renamed after a fallen correctional administrator now has some new signage to prove it. On Tuesday the Tennessee Department of Correction unveiled the new signage outside the Debra K. Johnson Rehabilitation Center in Nashville. The facility had been previously called the Tennessee Prison for Women until it was renamed in Johnson’s honor in August. Johnson worked for the Department of Correction for over 38 years. LINK

Why the fate of the only woman on federal death row hinges on these Tennessee attorneys and their health (Tennessean) The looming execution of a severely mentally ill woman, the only woman on federal death row, may hinge on the health of two Nashville attorneys. A pair of Tennessee-based assistant federal public defenders, Kelley Henry and Amy Harwell, asked the courts to delay the execution of Lisa Montgomery after they each caught COVID-19 during last-ditch efforts to save her life. LINK

Gov. Lee, health commissioner to attend House Republican Caucus retreat despite pandemic (WZTV-TV Nashville) FOX 17 News is continuing coverage on a story we first brought you yesterday on state lawmakers planning to hold an in-person retreat this weekend, despite worsening COVID-19 numbers in Tennessee and across the country. We’ve been hearing from health officials for weeks that now is not the time for large gatherings, and many, including Governor Lee are altering their Thanksgiving celebrations to protect loved ones and prevent numbers from soaring even higher. But still, this retreat held by state Republican lawmakers is going on as planned. LINK

State lawmaker Jeremy Faison says precautions in place as GOP leaders prepare to meet, socialize (WBIR-TV Knoxville) East Tennessee Republican lawmaker Jeremy Faison says he’s taken steps to ensure a GOP caucus that starts Thursday at a state park is conducted with virus safety precautions in place. “I have been working with our state’s top health official, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, and officials at Pickwick Landing State Park to make sure we are following the maximum safety guidelines suggested by the Centers for Disease Control,” Faison, the House Republican Caucus chair, said Wednesday in a statement to WBIR. LINK

Here are the candidates for House GOP leadership (TN Journal) Following Rep. Andrew Farmer’s withdrawal as a candidate for House majority leader, the only remaining contested GOP leadership race appears to be for caucus chair, where Robin Smith is challenging Jeremy Faison. Here’s the list circulated among House Republican Caucus members (with the caveat that nominations will also be allowed to be made at the GOP meeting on Tuesday) LINK

Tennessee lawmaker wears two masks as a COVID-19 precaution (WKRN-TV Nashville) There remains a great divide in this country on how people look at COVID-19 and that includes Tennessee’s Capitol Hill. A glimpse of the various views played out this week at a Tennessee legislative committee meeting. One lawmaker has been so passionate about masks that he wears two of them. “I wear a cloth mask and underneath that I either wear a surgical mask or an N95,” said Memphis Rep. G.A. Hardaway. “It allows me to have maximum protection.” The African-American lawmaker is blunt about a second reason for two masks. COVID-19 disproportionately affects black communities. LINK

TVA pension underfunded by $5.6 billion; utility vows to pay all retiree benefits (Times Free Press) The Tennessee Valley Authority managed to pay down its debt, trim its rates, and pay higher employee and distributor bonuses last year, but the utility still has a pension shortfall of more than $5.6 billion which got even worse in the past year, according to new financial reports filed with TVA’s annual report. At the end of fiscal 2020 on Sept. 30, TVA’s pension plan had assets of about $8 billion, which is only 58% of what actuaries estimate is needed to cover all of the more than $13.6 billion of obligations for current and future retirees and dependents covered in the plan. LINK


Tennessee Voices, Episode 116: Dr. Manoj Jain, Memphis-Shelby COVID task force member (Tennessean) The news of effective vaccines against COVID-19 has cast light on what is expected to be a “dark winter.” While the rollout will take some time, health experts can now speak with hope to people about an end to the pandemic, but they are unrelenting about preaching on effective practices to minimize risk, such as social distancing, masking and hand washing. Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease physician and member of the Memphis-Shelby County COVID Task Force spoke to me on this episode of the Tennessee Voices podcast about what we have learned so far about the novel coronavirus since it emerged earlier this year and the road to recovery ahead. LINK

Memphis hospital CEOs: COVID-19 may not be ending anytime soon but neither should our fight (Commercial Appeal) A volatile 2020 is rapidly drawing to a close, perhaps to our collective relief. Everyday acts of heroism and resilience have become inspiringly commonplace. But a succession of social and political challenges, coupled with the upheavals of the COVID-19 pandemic, have made us all feel like endurance runners on an endless trail of abrupt turns. Week after week, we sat on the edges of our seats waiting for the all-clear—desperate for “normal” to recommence. We are all eagerly awaiting a safe and effective vaccine, and even with promising early reports, we are still months away from scientists’ tireless work coming to fruition. LINK

Otis Sanford: Due to COVID, my Thanksgiving ritual is off the table (Daily Memphian) The drive is always long and arduous — about 200 miles down the mostly desolate highways of Interstate 55 and U.S. 82. From driveway to driveway, that’s just over three hours from my home in Cordova to my sister Everlyn Johnson’s home in Starkville, Mississippi. Roughly five hours after my arrival, it’s time for the return trip along those same roads. Only by then, it’s pitch dark. LINK

Alex Hubbard: Heed Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright’s warning of domestic threats to democracy (Tennessean) When Madeleine Albright was young and escaping a battered Europe in 1948, America came to her rescue. America not only took her family in, it was the country that prevailed over communism in the Cold War, defeated fascism in World War II, and rebuilt Europe and democracy virtually all at once. Albright, who became the first female secretary of state under Bill Clinton, and Colin Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants who became the first Black secretary of state under George W. Bush, participated in a virtual event Monday at Vanderbilt University. Their central message was clear. LINK

David Plazas: Does the Tennessee Democratic Party have a viable future? (Tennessean) While his percentage remained steady at 61% in 2020, President Donald Trump won over 300,000 more votes in Tennessee than in his first run for office in 2016. Even as The Associated Press called the national election for President-elect Joe Biden, Tennessee deepened its political redness in just about every one of its 95 counties except Davidson, Shelby and Haywood. Democrats lost their bid for the U.S. Senate and only flipped one seat in the Tennessee General Assembly; State Sen. Heidi Campbell beat two-term incumbent Steve Dickerson in District 20. LINK

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