vaccine

Conservative radio talk show host Valentine hospitalized with COVID-19

Conservative radio talk show host Phil Valentine has been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to his brother.

“He is in the hospital in the critical care unit breathing with assistance but is NOT on a ventilator,” Mark Valentine said in a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday.

“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine’, and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” he wrote.

Here’s the full statement:

Phil contracted the Covid virus a little over a week ago & has since been hospitalized & is in very serious condition, suffering from Covid Pneumonia and the attendant side effects. He is in the hospital in the critical care unit breathing with assistance but is NOT on a ventilator. We’d ask that everyone please refrain from contacting him while he is in the hospital. Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an “anti-vaxer” he regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine’, and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon. Phil & his family would like for all of you to know that he loves ya’ll and appreciates your concern, thoughts & prayers more than you will ever know. Please continue to pray for his recovery and PLEASE GO GET VACCINATED!”

Fired chief vaccine officer’s husband ran against erstwhile Lee ally Casada

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone in the House chamber in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state on Monday fired Tennessee’s top vaccination officer, The Tennessean’s Brett Kelman reports. Michelle Fiscus, the medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs at the Health Department, said her termination letter gave no reason for her dismissal.

Fiscus told the paper she had become a scapegoat for conservative lawmakers’ anger over the department’s efforts to vaccinate teeenagers against COVID-19.

“It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19,” Fiscus told the paper in a statement. “I have now been terminated for doing exactly that.”

There’s a political subcurrent to the firing. Fiscus’ husband, Brad, ran as an independent candidate against state Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) in last year’s election, finishing third. Many of the lawmakers most upset about the state’s vaccinate efforts were strong supporters of Casada’s truncated House speakership, which collapsed in 2019 amid a racist and sexist text messaging scandal and complaints about a heavy-handed leadership style.

Casada, who played a key role in pushing through Gov. Bill Lee’s signature school voucher law in 2019, was one of three sitting lawmakers to have their homes and offices searched by federal agents in January. No charges have been filed in the probe.

Michelle Fiscus’ full statement follows:

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Here’s who has been vaccinated among the TN congressional delegation

Bill Hagerty attends the Tennessee Republican Party’s Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville on June 15, 2019. At right is U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the state’s nine House members are more divided.

According to reporting by States Newsroom and the Chattanooga Times Free Press, four House members from Tennessee have gotten the shot: Democrats Steve Cohen of Memphis and Jim Cooper of Nashville, and Republicans Scott DesJarlais of Winchester and David Kustoff of Memphis.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga) is holding off for the moment.

“Because I was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January, I am waiting to be vaccinated until those who are at a greater risk for the virus are able to be vaccinated first,” he told the Times Free Press. “I continue to strongly urge all Americans to get vaccinated.”

The four remaining Tennessee members, all Republicans, did not respond to the survey or newspaper: Tim Burchett of Knoxville, Mark Green of Ashland City, Diana Harshbarger of Kingsport, and John Rose of Cookeville.

U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and Bill Hagerty (R-Nashville) responded they had already been innoculated.