How Knoxville public radio got the White House coronavirus report Gov. Lee didn’t want to release

Gov. Bill Lee arrives for a press conference on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee ranked fourth worst in the country for COVID-19 related deaths per 100,000, according to a White House report that Gov. Bill Lee didn’t want to release to the public. The report was obtained under public records laws by a Knoxville public radio station.

The report took a circuitous path toward becoming public. The Center for Public Integrity in Washington reported about it’s existence last week, and the TNJ: On the Hill blog posted about the finding that Tennessee had slid into the “red zone” of 24 states most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. That led another reporter to ask the governor about the report (and the related refusal to make it public) during his weekly press conference.

Lee responded that not all the of the details in the White House report are up to date and that he wanted to limited the sources of information about the outbreak.

“Multiple streams of data from multiple places is not helpful to people,” Lee said.

While the Lee administration didn’t want to share the White House report with the media, it did send copies to health officials around the state. That’s where WUOT-FM, the public radio station in Knoxville, comes in.

The station requested a copy from the Knox County Health Department. Director Martha Buchanan said since she shared the report with the county Board of Health, a a decision-making body, it became subject to Tennessee open records laws.

The report includes a recommendation to impose a statewide mask mandate, which is something Lee has decided to leave to county mayors and health departments.

The report says Tennessee saw a 41% spike in new coronavirus cases between Oct. 4 and Oct. 11, and a 32% increase in COVID-19 related deaths over the period. At the same time, the number of tests being conducted around the state has dropped. The sharpest increases in coronavirus cases has occurred in Putnam, Wilson, and Sullivan counties, according to the White House.

Read the full WUOT and the White House report on Tennessee report here.

48 Responses to How Knoxville public radio got the White House coronavirus report Gov. Lee didn’t want to release

  • Avatar
    Bill says:

    Gov. Lee speaks with forked tongue.

  • Avatar
    Not that Stuart guy says:

    Lee’s argument is pretty sad. He argues first that “multiple data streams” are bad. (Debatable.) This then implies that a single data stream from the Health Dept is a good thing, but the Dept also does not release the data. So, it ends up being a story about how the Guv doesn’t share public information.
    Next, the story reaffirms how Lee is a wimp, side-stepping the big decision about masks by punting to the county mayors. Lee campaigned on the idea that as a “businessman,” he could make the hard decisions. Doesn’t seem like it, does it?
    Governor: Show some spine and help same some lives- mandate masks. Sure, there’ll be complaining from within your own party, but you needn’t worry about a primary fight from your right.

  • Avatar
    Phil Lassiter says:

    He doesn’t wear masks. Why should anyone else? Have t you seen his lake pictures and Rose Garden pictures? No one is even wearing a mask in the picture with this article. Follow his example and you’ll be fine.

  • Avatar
    Keith Richardson says:

    Typical move by a Republican administration…. do all you can to keep the people from knowing the truth. Hide the facts, hoping no one will hold you accountable if they don’t fully see the misery that resulted from your policies (or lack thereof.)

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Hey Keith, are they going to pack the court or not? Just what was Hunter Biden, a terribly flawed specimen of a human being, doing in the Ukraine and China to earn $millions and what was did his now demented dad do to assist him? Why isn’t the liberal media, many of whom are former Democratic operatives, pressing Joe on the latest revelations from Hunter’s abandoned computer? As a truth and facts maven that you are Keith I bet you a greatly vexed by the obvious conspiracy of silence and deflection at work here hiding both from sharp eyed voters like yourself.

      • Avatar
        Scherry Fouke says:

        This has already been debunked. Rudy Guiliani has been used by the Russian government to take planted information to Trump and from there to Twitter. Trump is, in actuality, a Russian asset. Nothing there, sir. This is all QAnon. Bogus.

        • Avatar
          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Good job Scherry!!! By mentioning Q’Anon in a reply in which you repeat baseless charges bandied about by the left about Trump, Guilliani et. al. colluding with “THE RUSSIANS” you remind us that conspiracy nuts come in all sizes, shapes and ideologies. The only difference is that the left has a much bigger megaphone with which to spread its disinformation and there are still people who believe there is such a thing as the unbiased “mainstream press” bless their hearts.

      • Avatar
        Sabo Pike says:

        Courts have been being packed for years. An Obama nominee died waiting for a McConnell vote. More than 100 Obama nominees were not voted on, leaving vacancies for Trump to fill.

        • Avatar
          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Dear, dear Sabo you don’t seem to know the difference between politicians simply exercising their prerogatives to act or not act on legislation or appointments vs. packing which is the creation of NEW positions and filling those NEW positions with allies in order to bring about a desired result.

          Surely you can see the idiocy of what the liberals are considering. If Americans hate Trump enough and react by not only throwing him out of office but also a bunch of most uninspiring Republican pols (e.g. Tillis (Heritage-63%), McSally (Heritage-56%), Graham (Heritage-55%)) as well and expand the Court with five or six lifetime appointees in a few years when the Republicans get control they will expand it to even more so “conservatives” control. This will go back and fourth until we eventually have a Supreme Court of 25 or 50 or more. As a result, the Supreme Court, which the liberals have converted into another legislature anyway, will actually begin to look like another legislature.

          • Avatar
            Taxpayer #314 says:

            This is precisely why most of the general public advises the GOP NOT to start this nuke war in the US courts.

      • Avatar
        MARLE says:

        Hillary Clinton’s foundation became a repository for every Emir, Dictator, Ogigarch and all around bad guy to influence her, and by extension, the Obama administration. No republican raised a finger to stop this activity.

        Phrasing this charitably, Hunter Biden is flawed in about every way possible. He is just like the Clinton Foundation….a repository for money intended to influence. BUT did the money influence and, if so, What did it influence? That is the only issue.

        This so-called blind shopkeeper had a copy of the Entire hard drive in his possession for over 1 !/2 Years. But it only surfaces (out of fear he says) to the public 21 days before an election his candidate appears to be losing (by all polls). Not hardly enough time to do a thorough check of the emails, the photos for authenticity.

        There is much to examine in the sad life of Hunter Biden; his father and his step-mother have enabled and even encouraged him in some very off the wall behavior, congratulating him on his romantic relationship with his dead brothers widow. And for me that all matters. But the timing of this Oct surprise, purposely it seems, with no time for careful analysis strikes me as beyond odd.

      • Avatar
        Paul says:

        News flash Stuart: Hunter Biden is not running for President of the US. We know that’s hard to grasp, but give it a try. If you’d like to go down this rabbit hole, Trump’s kids have continued to peddle handbags, hotel stays, golf course visits, and much more during his entire tenure. Let’s play spot the difference here….slowly…..Donald Trump is President now and has been for nearly four years. Grifters gonna grift, because that’s what they do, and the Trump family is exhibit A on that front. Why so worked up about Hunter Biden when the actual occupant of the White House is running a taxpayer funded grift on a daily basis? If I see the “conservative media” owning up to that, I might feel a bit more strongly about the “liberal media” taking an interest in the children of the person who is not-actually-President-at-this-moment, aka, Joe Biden. And since when do we vote on folks children as a key Presidential qualifier anyway? Is that some sort of new rule/rationalization dreamed up the the Cato Institute or some other “freedom” peddling lobby group?

        As far as court packing, who knows and who cares at this point in time….another conservative red herring. But if you are gonna get all sanctimonious about it, why cram through a supreme court member and not “let the people decide” to quote someone I’m sure you may recall saying, given that we are basically a couple of weeks away from an election (instead of a year when that infamous “policy” was dreamed up)? Court cramming for me, but not for thee, in Conserv-utopia land. We’ll see what “the people decide” in a couple of weeks and go from there re: the courts.

      • Avatar
        Go Blue says:

        I commend your attempt at changing the subject. You must be a real pleasure to know.

  • Avatar
    steve cates says:

    Great comments already showing the hypocrisy and weakness of Lee. There is hardly anything worse than a weak fence rider!!!

  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    This republican tactic follows Trump at the top and trickles down to the republican cult followers at the state level. Trump and Lee should be setting good examples, not hiding and dodging the truth. Let’s elect some real leaders this year.

  • Avatar
    Charles says:

    More reasons not to vote for any candidate with an “R.”

    • Avatar
      debra taylor says:

      ever day it just gets crazier i never in my 65 years i have never heard the crazy tings i hear from a president of our country. we are in scary place and i pray it will stop.

  • Avatar
    John Stewart says:

    This fellow Anderson seems oblivious to the fact that the so-called abandoned laptop is almost certainly a Russian plant, as reported by US intelligence. Right up there with Rudy being an unwitting Russian dupe. Meanwhile, Trump, the supposed beneficiary of all this Russian spycraft, is out running one superspreader event after another. Do any of these Trump supporters care ANYTHING about the security and health interests of Americans? Give me a freaking break.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      “. . .almost certainly a Russian plant. . .” Funny, I read that it almost certainly belonged to Hunter and shows breathtaking corruption by Joe as well as his troubled son during the Obama administration. Where did you read that report “. . .by U. S. intelligence.” You are one well connected guy John. I’m impressed.

      • Avatar
        MARLE says:

        Hunter Biden is both an alcoholic and a drug addict. The “shopkeeper/repairman” is apparently a Very enthusiastic Trump supporter.

        The laptop belongs to Hunter. Given his frequent drug sessions, how he lost possession of it is anyone’s guess. What, of the contents, are doctored is not known at this point. I listened to the interview with the shopkeeper and that was not very settling. 21 days before an election, as I said, is to me…beyond odd.

    • Avatar
      Phil Lassiter says:

      Then how do you explain the crack pipe pictures and vivid porno film involving Hunter? It cannot be denied-much like the texts bragging about cocaine use and sex in public bathrooms between Casada and Casada’s buddy Cocaine Cade Cothren right here in good ole Tennessee just recently

  • Avatar
    Frank Gibson says:

    Like president djtRUMP, his foot-soldier corps of lame governors — Lee of Tennessee and idiot DeSanticlaus of Florida — don’t want anything out that embarasses the BOSS. What is boss spelled backward?

  • Avatar
    Donna Locke says:

    One of the top worst governors we’ve ever had. Totally clueless.

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    I do not think the Government has the authority to issue masks mandates. But they have.
    There is no solid proof that the masks help and much data about the harm.
    Lee should NOT issue any mandate.
    WHO: If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection.
    USA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask (including respirators) to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    US Surgeon General urged people on Twitter to stop buying face masks

    National Center for Biotechnology Information: The US Surgeon General advised against buying masks for use by healthy people. One important reason to discourage widespread use of face masks is to preserve limited supplies for professional use in health-care settings. Universal face mask use in the community has also been discouraged with the argument that face masks provide no effective protection against coronavirus infection.

  • Avatar
    MARLE says:

    Trump called the Clinton Foundation the Clinton Crime Family. Chanted Lock her up along with the crowd. Then 2 weeks after the election he said he wasn’t even going to look into the Clinton Foundation b/c “she has suffered enough” .

    Trump, based on his non-action the last time, Obviously couldn’t care less about corruption. . Or maybe there wasn’t anything criminal going on. One way or the other he didn’t DO anything. Just talk. Another broken promise among hundreds.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      In the 2016 Republican Primary voters had a choice between a highly educated, articulate, stalwart conservative in Cruz and an open notorious blowhard No Record Candidate in Trump. During the one and only debate in this campaign Trump doubled down and highlighted everything anyone who isn’t a Trumpidian can’t stand about the guy. About which I make the following two comments:

      1. It looks like Republicans are not only going to lose the Presidency but the Senate too. Such are the rewards for choosing a narcistic blowhard No Record Candidate. (Where are those people who chastised me for condemning Sethi’s candidacy because he was an Anemic Record Candidate by saying “well, Trump was a No Record Candidate.” INDEED HE WAS!)

      2. Does Trump really want to be President any more? After that Kamikaze performance in that debate it only reaffirmed my opinion that Trump just a soon go back to civilian life and he is just going around doing things he regards as fun so it can be said that he went out fighting.

      You know the best First Lady we have ever had wants to get the hell out of there YESTERDAY!!! After two years of left-wing government the American people are going to beg the Republicans to come back in 2022. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re in for a damaging two years.

      • Avatar
        MARLE says:

        I think he desperately wants to be president b/c the last and final 4 years will be a free for all. He has shown he tolerates influence peddling. He had Zero interest in prosecuting what he accurately dubbed the Clinton Crime Family.

        I think he is going to fan out family members to the far corners of the earth to solicit HunterBiden-styled payoffs selling access (or the promise of access, even better to stay on the sunny side of the law) for the next 4 years. Image how much much that sad Tiffany needs a funding outlet. Jr and Eric would be a natural fit. Ivanka and Daddy will be dreaming of a first woman in the white house gig so she can’t be part of this.

  • Avatar
    Phil Lassiter says:

    Casada and his cocaine companion cade cothren Where are they now? Keep an eye on them because they will try to create a PAC and fleece money again. Be vigilant

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Nice of you to ask Phil but I can only say that Glen Casada (ACU-88%) was understandably not challenged in the Republican Primary last August and he is now on his way to a comfortable victory in District 63 as a reward for his solid conservative voting record and attentive constituent service.

  • Avatar
    Emily Elliston says:

    Never mind about the Russians, Trump or Qanon for the
    purpose of response to this article about masks.
    All that is out of our control.
    Never mind why we are just finding out about who
    recommended what.
    Focus on what we the people can do now, from this moment on:
    Wear a mask.
    Governor Lee, County Mayors, please note that
    voluntary compliance did not work!
    Mandate mask wearing!
    Now!

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I know why there is a sense of urgency in your response Emily. We have not taken a formal vote around here but the lady who most reminds us of Madame Defarge in “Tale of Two Cities” on this blog is lovable Beatrice Shaw. Indeed, when the revolution comes and they are looking for a Commissar to torment the average citizen it is Beatrice whose name will be bandied about as a possible. I can imagine that an authoritarian yourself Emily is angered by Beatrice’s running away with this thing so you want to get your candidacy known. OK Emily duly noted.

      Unfortunately your timing to demand a government ukase re: mask wearing is a little off. Just when the CDC has had to sheepishly announce that a survey has shown that an overwhelming majority of people afflicted with the Chinese flu reported wearing a mask most of the time, “mandating” wearing a mask “Now!” may be a little extreme to those of us who have no interest in being a Commissar.

      • Avatar
        MARLE says:

        That CDC report is suspect as all self-reports are. And wearing it most of the time is not the way to tamp down a pandemic. There are useless masks like the stupid gaiters which is of no use at all. And then there’s wearing it below the nostrils as I saw countless sales clerks on my many errand runs today. That report REPORTS nothing useful and certainly nothing to call into question the effectiveness of masks. Japan has 1/3 as many people as we do. They have 90K Cases (not deaths) so far. You don’t see crowd shots of them with masks riding below their nose or bandanas tied around their neck.

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  • Avatar
    Beatrice Shaw says:

    For Pete’s sake just ear a mask. Even if it weren’t proven (which it is), we should all wear them everyday in an abundance of caution. Republicans are just looking for ANYTHING they can try to help Trump with. Take this Biden email scam for instance….everyone KNOWS these are set ups and ‘fake’ news as Republicans like to say. Trump is about to lose and President Biden will calm these right wing groups with enforcement actions and arms controls that are reasonable to a normal person. I for one will be glad when the election is over and we can get back to teaching kids, making them healthy and guaranteering them a good paycheck no matter their backgrounds AND colors.

    • Avatar
      MARLE says:

      People should be guaranteed the Free education necessary to EARN a good paycheck. Taxpayers are already doing that.

    • Avatar
      Eddie White says:

      You are right Beatrice. The Democrats have done a good job of uniting behind Biden. Biden is a much more moderate candidate who appeals to independents and disgruntled Republicans. He is much less offensive and has 47 years experience in Washington. I believe Biden will issue a national mask mandate. With the resurgence of COVID, it makes a lot of sense. The media has no interest in Hunter Biden, is not reporting on it, and it will make no difference.

  • Avatar
    Donna Locke says:

    We need a reset. That a song from 1977 has gone viral with a TikTok of a guy on a longboard riding to work and swigging cranberry juice tells me something is trying to reset.

    As for mandating masks, I don’t think it is healthy for children to wear them all day in school. For one thing, our own germs, the germs we are carrying all the time, can make us sick if our immune systems get compromised. This is true with meningitis. Masks force your germs back into your system, possibly with bad result. Plus, they throw your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels out of whack.

    I don’t think people with sinus problems are going to fare well with prolonged mask wearing.

  • Avatar
    Donna Locke says:

    If my comments are going to be held up for moderation, I am going to stop commenting here. This is nuts.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      What did you do to get such special “disparate” treatment?

      • Avatar
        MARLE says:

        Every reputable source I’ve seen from clinics to hospitals to business outlets like Forbes have said that there is no issue with masks and oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange. Same for the notinon of Breathing in your own germs even with extended use of n-95s. Twitter, FB and other outlets that stop dissemination of false information may delay or fail to post but TNJ…really?

  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    The GOP has rightly gained the reputation of being a party that is totally bankrupt in ideas and one that revels in dirty tricks and dubious ethical and legal standards. The public is fed up with this type of mentality and beliefs so they are finally speaking out with a loud voice. The high “Heritage” numbers can’t save them from themselves. The times they are a changing”! GET OUT & VOTE?

  • Avatar
    Perry Aubric says:

    What is sad is that the debate has devolved into a question of whether masks should or should not be “mandated.” So what if you think there is no legal authority to mandate masks?

    Scientists, doctors and other health care professionals are urging us to wear masks to protect ourselves and others. (Again, as your doctor about this and see what our doctor tells you. Not a TV anchor or a radio host or a politician. Ask your own doctor.)

    Are you so damn selfish and pig-headed that you cannot put up with a little inconvenience that might save someone’s life? Perhaps someone in your own family? Or even a (gasp) stranger?

  • Avatar
    Eddie White says:

    Perry, this is one conservative Republican who agrees with you. Today marked the highest increase yet for new COVID cases in Tennessee. We also have the highest number of hospitalizations in Tennessee. I have lost 2 long-time friends in the last 3 weeks to the virus. I believe President Biden will issue a national mask mandate. I don’t agree with much of your left wing rants, but this is an issue we can agree on. Gov Lee and President Trump seemed to have stumbled on the issue of mask mandates.

  • Avatar
    Donna Locke says:

    I have definitely gotten congested and sick after wearing a mask for long periods. Several times. The connection is there. I have sinus problems. One of my grandchildren has this, too.

    I can also tell a difference in oxygen levels since I have asthma and am familiar with that sense.

    Wearing masks for long periods is not healthy.

  • Avatar
    Misty Pardner says:

    Lee better be looking over his shoulder. 2022.

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