Erik Schelzig

Editor, The Tennessee Journal

29 Tennessee health centers to receive $25M from feds

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is  announcing $25 million in grants for 29 health centers in Tennessee responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the awardees:

Health Center Grantee City Funding Amount
Ocoee Regional Health Corporation Benton $753,725
Hardeman County Community Health Center Bolivar $698,825
Chattanooga Hamilton County Hospital Authority Chattanooga $891,050
Hamilton, County Of Chattanooga $640,790
Maury Regional Hospital Columbia $781,820
Health, Tennessee Dept Of Cookeville $1,173,470
Mercy Health Services, Inc. Franklin $717,935
Mountain Peoples Health Councils Inc Huntsville $723,140
Dayspring Health, Inc. Jellico $675,140
East Tennessee State University Johnson City $705,320
Cherokee Health Systems Knoxville $1,965,725
Community Health Of East Tennessee, Inc. Lafollette $617,810
Perry County Medical Center Inc Linden $630,875
Christ Community Health Services Inc Memphis $2,073,815
Memphis Health Center, Inc. Memphis $1,038,170
Tri-State Community Health Center Memphis $559,070
Rutherford County Primary Care Clinic, Inc. Murfreesboro $758,090
Health, Tennessee Dept Of Nashville $551,105
Health, Tennessee Dept Of Nashville $582,800
Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, Inc. Nashville $1,089,650
United Neighborhood Health Services, Inc. Nashville $1,458,125
University Community Health Services, Inc. Nashville $761,150
Rural Medical Services, Inc. Newport $707,855
Rural Health Services Consortium, Inc. Rogersville $1,283,765
Hardin County Regional Health Center Savannah $744,140
Lake County Primary Care Tiptonville $570,785
Chota Community Health Services Vonore $700,430
Morgan County Health Council Wartburg $639,575
Hope Family Health Services Westmoreland $604,820

Lee to community newspapers: ‘In this battle, heroes stay home’

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee in a conference call with community newspapers thanked the publications for providing key information about the state’s coronavirus response to their readerships.

“We are in a war,” Lee said in the call, according to the Buffalo River Review. “And in this battle, heroes stay home.”

Lee said the administration was working to provide personal protective equipment to rural communities and looking for ways increase the number of healthcare workers to prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases.

“Tennesseans can help with that surge by staying at home,” Lee said. “We are the leading state for testing per capita, and the most aggressive in testing nationwide.”

Lee acknowledged the “overwhelming impact” the virus has had on tourism around the state.

“Business owners are bearing the brunt of the safer at home order,” Lee said. “In the short term it is incredibly painful, but know that I understand them and hear them, and will do everything we can to help them.”

TN Attorney General’s Office responds to COVID-19

The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office is working at full strength even as most of its staffers work from home. Lawyers are handling mediations and depositions through video conferencing and filing court documents through a fax machine.

Samantha Fisher, the communications director for AG Herbert Slatery, is giving an inside look at how the office is continuing to function under these trying circumstances.

Nearly 250 staffers are working remotely with a focus on legal issues related to the coronavirus response, she said. The Consumer Advocate Unit successfully petitioned the state Public Utility Commission to prevent disconnection of service for nonpayment while the the governor’s state of emergency was in effect.

The Division of Consumer Affairs and the Public Protection Section look into each complaint filed. The division had received 202 formal complaints regarding the coronavirus, inclduding 139 for alleged price gouging (including one high-profile case that received national media attention) and 51 involving refund disputes such as for a vacation rental or event.

The Medicaid Fraud and Integrity Division lawyers have maintained their efforts at civil recovery for TennCare overpayments due to fraud. The division recovered $14 million last year, according to the AG’s office.

Lee announces $10M in grants for rural hospitals

Gov. Bill Lee welcomes delegates to a summit on economically distressed counties in Linden on Aug. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has announced $10 million in grants to help small and rural hospitals struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic. The grants will be capped at $500,000 per hospital to help cover financial losses due to a ban on elective procedures.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the State of Tennessee will allocate $10 million in Small and Rural Hospital Readiness Grants to support hospitals that are facing financial strain due to the ongoing response to COVID-19.

“Small and rural hospitals are critical to fighting COVID-19 and these grants will help complement federal aid dollars to ensure hospitals can continue delivering care through this crisis,” said Gov. Lee. “These organizations not only provide care for existing needs but are also a key part of our efforts to build and maintain bed capacity during the expected surge of COVID-19 cases.” 

The funds, capped at $500,000 per hospital, will be allocated from the state’s FY20 COVID-19 response appropriation and distributed by the Department of Finance & Administration.

For participating hospitals, the grants will serve as a bridge over the coming weeks while elective procedures are suspended and new federal funds are still processing. Applications are live today and can be accessed here: https://www.tn.gov/ecd/rural-development/small-and-rural-hospital-readiness-grant.

Due to the continually developing nature of the pandemic, the application will be held open for a month or until funds are expended.

Hagerty to report raising $1.2M in first quarter

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty speaks at Nashville event on Dec. 3, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty will report raising $1.2 million in the first quarter, the campaign announced Monday.

“We’re continuing to share my vision and plan to protect our conservative Tennessee values as we connect with voters across the state,” Hagerty said in a statement.

Here’s the release from the Hagerty campaign:

Nashville, TN — Team Hagerty today announced Bill Hagerty brought in more than $7 million for the campaign in just seven months. He has $5.6 million cash on hand. In the first quarter of 2020, Hagerty further extended his strong momentum of support, raising $1.2 million.

“Team Hagerty continues building momentum every single day, and our family is so grateful for this outpouring of support,” said Bill Hagerty. “We’re continuing to share my vision and plan to protect our conservative Tennessee values as we connect with voters across the state. Together, we will defeat Chuck Schumer’s hand-picked liberal candidate and support President Trump’s America First agenda.”

Speaking about the first quarter, Team Hagerty Finance Chair Steve Smith added, “Tennesseans want their next Senator to stand with President Trump to protect our conservative values. They know that Bill Hagerty has earned the President’s whole-hearted endorsement and that Bill is best positioned to work with our President to deliver for Tennessee. Bill is running a strong grassroots campaign, and the campaign is strongly positioned to defeat Chuck Schumer’s radically liberal candidate in November.”

Hagerty earned President Trump’s “complete and total” endorsement to be Tennessee’s next United States Senator while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. To learn more about Bill Hagerty, visit  www.teamhagerty.com.

Tennessee to shutter all 56 state parks

A workout area is taped off in Nashville due to the coronavirus pandemic on April 2, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

All 56 state parks and natural areas will be closed to the public for 10 days starting Saturday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We decided to close the parks in support of Governor Lee’s Executive Order 23,” state Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers said in a release. “The health and safety of Tennessee citizens is all of our top priority right now.”

The decision follows Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order on Thursday requiring Tennesseans to stay at home for all but essential activities.

From urging to requiring: Lee makes stay-at-home mandatory

Source: Gov. Bill Lee’s office.

Gov. Bill Lee is ramping up his stay-at-home directive, moving from urging people to avoid all non essential activities to requiring it. The move follows an uptick in traffic and movement around the state.

Here’s the full release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will sign Executive Order 23 requiring that Tennesseans stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities as data shows an increase in citizen movement across the state.

“Over the last few weeks, we have seen decreases in movement around the state as Tennesseans socially distance and stay at home,” said Gov. Lee. “However, in recent days we have seen data indicating that movement may be increasing and we must get these numbers trending back down. I have updated my previous executive order to clearly require that Tennesseans stay at home unless they are carrying out essential activities.”

Data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation analyzed traffic patterns for March 2020. While safer at home measures and further restrictions on businesses showed a steep drop-off in vehicle movement from March 13-29, data beginning on March 30 indicates travel is trending upwards, again.

The Administration also analyzed data from Unacast to understand cell phone mobility and determine movement trends among people. Unacast indicates the movement of Tennesseans is trending toward pre-COVID-19 levels.

“The month of April stands to be an extremely tough time for our state as we face the potential for a surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Lee. “Every Tennessean must take this seriously, remain at home and ensure we save lives.”

The executive order remains in effect until April 14, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Gov. Lee will address these measures in the press briefing today at 3 p.m. CDT.

Lee warns lawmakers of ‘surge’ in coronavirus hospitalizations

Gov. Bill Lee is warning state lawmakers  a “surge” in coronavirus infections could overwhelm the state’s healthcare system in the next two to four weeks.

Lee made his comments in a conference call with lawmakers on Wednesday. The Daily Memphian reports that Lee’s “unified command” is basing its efforts to respond to the crisis on modeling of the outbreak.

“We know based on modeling we’re looking at that we will have a bed shortage, both with hospital beds as well as ICU beds. We’re taking that very seriously,” Stuart McWhorter, the head of the governor’s task force on COVID-19 said during the call. “We’re looking at the best data we have right now to try to look at what Tennessee will look like over the next two to four weeks and taking it very seriously.”

Byrd cites coronavirus as reason for about-face on running for re-election

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Education Committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Despite promising Republican House colleagues behind closed doors he wouldn’t seek re-election — and later making similar pledges to the public — state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) is seeking another term.

Byrd made the announcement to the Wayne County News, claiming he had heard from “hundreds of constituents” asking him to remain in the House. Byrd, who was deposed as a subcommittee chairman last year amid a drumbeat of protests over allegations of sexual misconduct when he was a high school basketball coach, said the coronavirus pandemic has underscored “the importance of having an experienced legislator to answer the calls, texts, and emails of numerous concerned constituents.”

“For District 71 to have a freshman Representative during this crucial time could definitely result in our rural counties being overlooked in future key legislation that could help our constituents rebound from this devastating pandemic,” Byrd wrote.

University of Tennessee courses to remain online-only through summer

Interim President Randy Boyd gives the State of the University Address at the Nashville Public Library in 2019. (Photo credit: University of Tennessee)

The University of Tennessee’s courses will remain online-only through the summer in response to the coronavirus pandemic, system President Randy Boyd announced Wednesday.

Here’s the full release from UT:

KNOXVILLE – University of Tennessee System President Randy Boyd – in consultation with chancellors at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center – has announced that summer session classes at all campuses will be delivered online in response to COVID-19.  At UTHSC, clinical rotations in hospitals will continue with students following COVID-19 protocol.
 
“Our faculty and staff have done an incredible job of moving to an entirely digital platform for the spring semester,” Boyd said.  “I am confident they will continue to provide an inspired learning experience for our students who are enrolled in summer classes.”
 
Since moving to an online platform, UT campuses have provided an estimated 9,300 classes online.
 
Each campus will be sending out specific communications to their faculty, students and staff regarding the impact to its respective campuses.

The UT System has a comprehensive resource guide that provides information and resources surrounding COVID-19:  tennessee.edu/coronavirus/.

In December 2019, the global health care community identified a new respiratory virus that originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, and has since been labeled 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization—previously it was referred to as 2019-nCoV). Spread of coronavirus is correlated with circumstances of close and sustained contact with others who are infected.

The University of Tennessee System has campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 387,000 alumni around the world.