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Capitol View commentary: Friday, April 3, 2020

Capitol View
Posted at 1:19 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 14:19:01-04

By Pat Nolan
April 3, 2020


No more talk of “hoaxes” or “this will all suddenly disappear and wash on through.” It seems President Donald Trump, after weeks of he and his administration downplaying the threat, and months of delaying efforts to prepare for the worst, they have finally begun to grasp the immensity, the life or death gravity of what this nation faces from the coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, the President himself this week is now using the “life or death’ phrase in urging the public to take seriously the guidance of national health experts to follow “social distancing guidelines.” The scientific models about the virus are scary. The best- case modeling scenario say, even with full public cooperation, 100,000 to 240,000 deaths likely will occur. But, in yet another of many mixed messages coming out of the White House, there is controversy over even the validity of these estimates.

Regardless, the virus numbers will be much worse without everyone pulling together. These projected numbers are so frightening (greater than our losses on 9/11 or in the Vietnam War) some might think they are an April Fool’s prank. This is no joke.

Leaving all the states, the cities, even hospitals to also compete for scarce health care equipment , personal protection supplies and testing materials borders on being an insane way to win a war (which the President correctly says we are fighting.)

The controversy over the lack of ventilators continues to rage. After saying that he was making sure there would be plenty of medical machines, the national reserve supply of ventilators and other supplies is all but gone and the President is (once again) invoking a federal law mandating production help from private companies because there is a dire and immediate need for ventilators. Early this week, the President all but accused hard pressed hospitals of sending “out the back door” the large amounts of extra masks and other materials they are receiving. He gave no evidence, just said “someone ought to look into it.” Really.

Of course, as the number of virus cases and the number of deaths rise by record amounts each day, the recriminations begin. Some now blame federal health officials for not reacting quickly enough. But that appears to be false.
I saw an interview with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday in which he actually claimed the President has never underestimated the seriousness of the virus. That is a falsehood so blatant, everyone should check to see if his nose grew after he said it.

And there are still more muddled, mixed messages coming out of Washington. This time it’s about the public wearing masks. Those are life- saving pieces of personal protection equipment that health care workers and first responders are running out of, putting their lives in danger while treating those with the disease, Masks are also the equipment federal health experts once said were not needed for the public. But now they may be because the virus has spread so widely (with many with the illness not showing symptoms) we have to assume everyone has the illness. Of course, the President has a suggestion about what to do that health experts aren’t endorsing. Making it all yet another mixed message.

Late news Thursday indicates the President will soon announce new guidance recommending some groups wear masks in certain parts of the country hard hit by the virus (such as New York). What previous guidance will soon be found to now be inoperative.

Pray and pray unceasingly. If the highest level of our government still can’t get its act together, we have to trust in the highest power to help see us through. Meanwhile as it is written that God helps those who help themselves, it is imperative that all of us do our part to follow the “social distancing” guidelines and stay home!

So how are we doing with “social distancing?” A national study of cell phone says Tennessee gets a grade of “D”. Read more, including the grades of all the states here.


It is clear: We cannot reopen the economy until we get the virus under control. Regardless, the resulting shutdown of the national and Tennessee economies continue to be sudden, horrendous and (to invoke that much overused, if accurate) description, unprecedented.

Nationally the last two weeks of new unemployment filings now total close to 10 million!

In Tennessee, the last two weeks of new unemployment aid requests now total over 139,000!

The unsettling news continued Friday with March unemployment figures showing a loss of over 700,000 jobs! April will be much worse since most of the March job data was gathered early in the month and doesn’t reflect the avalanche of recent layoffs and unemployment benefits requests.

For those renting their homes, the Tennessee Supreme Court has forbidden evictions while the pandemic continues. Landlords are not permitted to cut off utilities, change locks or throw tenants belongings out in the street either without a court order (and the courts in the state are largely shut down. All these moves that will help buy some time for those who have lost their jobs. Several members of the Metro Council this week also sent out a letter reminding landlords of these restrictions.

More help could be coming from the local COVID-19 Relief Fund which has now raised $3.2 million.

Finally, the state is seeking federal permission to set up a $105 million fund to provide treatment for uninsured coronavirus patients who right now fall through the state’s safety net. It’s not the long overdue Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act but it’s a step in that direction due to dire circumstances.


It’s been another week of struggle for the state of Tennessee and the administration of Governor Bill Lee. There continue to be controversies over about what is appropriate to share with the public about the pandemic. Slowly over time, it appears more is being disclosed, as earlier arguments that leveling with citizens about what is going on would violate patient privacy laws is just bureaucratic and legal baloney. Still the controversy rages over the state’s transparency or lack thereof.

Early this week, Governor did finally issue a “Safer at Home” statewide order much as several large Tennessee cities started doing over two weeks ago. Even after the move, a growing number of doctors and other health experts continued to press the Governor to immediately issue a statewide ‘Stay Home” or ‘Shelter in Place” directive, a move a large majority of states have already done. A “Stay Home’” or “Shelter in Place” directive would go beyond just closing non-essential businesses but also mandate a ban on all non-emergency travel outside the home.

But despite the charge by some that he was “leading from behind,” Governor Lee continued for most of the week to resist any state shutdown order, saying he has found disagreement among experts about what is the best way to respond to the virus. On Wednesday, the Governor even said some fellow governors, who have issued “Stay At Home “or “Shelter In Place” mandates, have told him they now have second thoughts about it. Interestingly, Governor Lee did not identify any governor expressing such sentiments, nor have I seen any news reports to that effect (a development that surely would be big news!). The effort to pressure the Governor grew more intense on Thursday when former Tennessee U.S. Senator and Majority Leader Dr. Bill First signed on to a statewide petition demanding stronger action.

It is reported that the Governor has continued to receive evidence from traffic and cell phone use data that his previous requests for people to stay home were not being followed. That evidence and perhaps Dr. Frist’s speaking out made the final difference. In fact within minutes after the Frist story went public Thursday afternoon, Governor Lee announced he would issue a mandatory “stay home” executive order.

And what are the essential activities which you are allowed to do when you leave your home? It does not appear to be all that different than the “Safer at Home” order from earlier in the week. The essential businesses staying open are the same. The difference in the new order is its urgency, the Governor’s latest order takes effect immediately.

Read it here.

Another tightening of his Stay Home effort is that the Governor has also sent out a letter to law enforcement across the state detailing enforcement of his new executive order.

I am told a lot of the pressure on the Governor to do more, and do it quickly, has been coming not just from Democrats but several top Republican legislative leaders too, as well as a number of GOP county and city officials across the state. You will note that both Lt. Governor and State Senate Speaker Randy McNally and the Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Cameron Sexton stood behind the Governor when he announced his “Safer at Home” order.

As for GOP leaders speaking out, there is Knoxville State Senator Dr. Richard Briggs. He has told KNOX NEWS that lives matter more than freedom, adding: "One of the things I've heard some of the leaders say is they want to protect civil rights and the constitution and the freedom of citizens," Briggs says. "I think the most important thing political leaders can do when we have epidemics is to protect the health of the population. Those kinds of statements, I don't know that I agree with, because freedom doesn't do you a lot of good if you're dead.” It seems with his latest executive order Governor Lee may now agree with the Senator. Dr. Brigg says he wishes the latest order had been issued weeks before.

The state has also been criticized for the handling of an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus at a Gallatin nursing home. With the facility being closed, dozens of patients and staff evacuated, several hospitalized and four dead, the nursing home reopened within days, much to the concern and opposition of Sumner County officials who say that is way too soon.

As the week went on Wednesday, the Governor did begin to sound alarm that “a COVID-19 surge” will hit Tennessee within the next few weeks, with a projected peak day of April 18 or 19.

The state is trying to mobilize to make sure our health care system isn’t overwhelmed. That is quite a challenging task with the state facing a hospital bed shortage of 7,806. Tennessee also faces a possible statewide total of 3,422 Tennesseans who could die in the weeks to come. That includes 165 deaths projected on a current projected peak date for the virus on April 19. Just five days ago, the projections anticipated around 1,500 deaths total in the state. If more folks follow the mandates, the numbers might go down. If we don’t, it will surely go up.

To build more capacity in our health care system, one move announced by Governor Lee Thursday afternoon is to make the huge Music City Center convention facility into hospital space.

Speaking of Metro buildings, the new Metro downtown Detention Center is now “safe and secure” after an unprecedented security breach delayed its opening a few weeks ago.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, election politics never takes time off. Thursday was the qualifying deadline for candidates to run for the General Assembly elections later this year in the August party primaries and the November general election. On the day of the qualifying deadline, one controversial state lawmaker announced he has changed his mind and will seek re-election. He says public demands, arising out of the virus and the resulting economic downturn, is what has changed his mind.

On the national political scene, the Democratic National Convention has been postponed until later in the summer and will now occur just a week before the Republican Convention is set to happen.


For Mayor John Cooper, he continues to toughen his “Safer at Home” order. Here is the link to his revised order.

Here is a NEWCHANNEL5 story link on the new restrictions.

The revised order still includes so many exemptions there is sure to be rising pressure on the Mayor to tighten it still further, even go to a “Stay Home” or “Shelter In Place” order as the virus surge begins to manifest itself. In fact, on Thursday, Chattanooga issued the first “Shelter In Place” order in Tennessee.

Back in Nashville, one other area that Metro began cracking down this week is enforcing the current restrictions that non-essential businesses being closed. The move comes after public complaints.

Another worrisome sign for the city are reports of confirmed virus cases involving employees of the Metro Jail (involving hospitalization) and the Juvenile Detention Center.

The virus is also negatively impacting nearly every aspect of our society and our social safety net.

Suicides and calls for help are spiking.
Domestic violence reports are up significantly.

There is a concern about an increase in child abuse.

Mental health concerns are rising statewide.

Requests for help have doubled at local food banks.

There are also concerns that tests for the virus are not being administered fairly with minority communities being left out.

Nationally the Fraternal Order of Police want the rules changed so officers are eligible for workers comp if they contact the virus.

A Nashville firefighter has already tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

But despite all this unsettling news, the willingness of people to volunteer, to go the extra mile to contribute to the cause to beat the virus, truly brings hope that together we will get through this.

Here is one example out of many!
Here’s another!
And this one!

Finally, Metro Nashville teachers, staff, volunteers along with school bus drivers are continuing their heroic work to deliver two meals a day to any young person under the age of 18. For many of these young people there are the only full meals they are likely to receive in these difficult times.


Mayor John Cooper is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week. With everything going on, we are honored he can take time to join us.

Mayor Cooper may have more issues on his plate than possibly any other mayor in the country. He faces nothing short of a triple whammy. Along with coronavirus pandemic, Nashville is still just beginning to recover from the deadly and destructive tornado that struck several neighborhoods across the city on March 3. And there are Metro’s still very serious budget issues which only got worse during the month of a March, being dealt direct blows by both the pandemic and Mother Nature, while the local economy tanked.

The Mayor took on all three issues last Tuesday when he delivered his first State of Metro address. His speech was delivered under the most unusual circumstances. The Metro Council chambers, because of the virus, was all but empty, except for a few mayoral aides, and just two council members (the Vice Mayor and Chairman Pro Temp) who were required to be present to conduct the unusual special meeting ever of that 40-member body.

During his speech, the Mayor clearly outlined the devastating blows the tornado and the pandemic have inflicted on our city and the impact on Nashville’s abilities to deliver services to its citizens. In that regard, the Mayor raised eyebrows, and likely the ire of some Nashvillians, by saying, later in April, he will present a budget for the city’s next fiscal year that will include a sharply higher property tax. Mayor Cooper did not give any more specifics on the tax hike, but he did give some clues in his remarks, which I hope to explore further during our discussion. The Mayor will also likely us an update and the latest information on how the city is doing in fighting the pandemic and recovering from the tornado.

Join us for what I think will be a one of most important programs we have ever aired on INSIDE POLITICS.

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times over the weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include:
7:00 p.m. Friday;
5:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday;
1:30 a.m. & 5:00 a.m. on Sunday.

THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 182 and on NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2.

One option for those who can’t see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on Just use your TiVo or DVR, if those live times don't work for you.

This week’s show and previous INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also posted on the NEWSCHANNEL5 website for your viewing under the NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS section. A link to the show is posted as well on the Facebook page of NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Each new show and link are posted the week after the program airs.

Finally, I am now posting a link to the show each week on my Facebook page as soon as it is available, usually on Monday or Tuesday


My role thus far in fighting the coronavirus has been to stay home with my wife; eat more takeout food to help keep local restaurants alive; and stay up to date on what is happening so I can write the best Capitol View column I can, as well as host the best INSIDE POLITICS program possible.

I have been to the store with my spouse once and gone down to the station to tape my show each Friday, as well as helping with coverage of the State of Metro speech on Tuesday. I am happy to say all my work at Channel 5 has been done observing “social distancing.”

I guess to “bend the curve,” I am doing what I can to help. That is important for me because as a diabetic, stroke survivor, senior citizen, I have plenty of pre-existing conditions that put me at risk. For relaxation, I have doing and sharing more family history research on- line (on my family and others). I have also made some progress on finishing my book.

I am doing more walking than usual since my seniors’ exercise Y classes at the Y have been cancelled. When I encounter others walking in the neighborhood, one of us goes across the street, or off the sidewalk, walking out into the street, to keep our social distance.

Enough about me. My wife is doing a lot more than I am, using her sewing skills to join with others to make dozens of masks and surgical mask covers for those on the front line.
I also have lots of folks in my family who are on the front lines of this war. I have a sister who is a respiratory therapist at a local hospital; a niece is a nurse in an eastern state who is daily on a hospital floor filled with COVFID-19 patients; and I have a nephew who is a doctor out west likely soon to get into the thick of the virus fight out there. They are the real heroes. One of my daughters is a nurse practitioner, and while her daily work is in a women’s health clinic, I worry about her too these days.

Until late last week, I didn’t know anyone who was victim of the virus. Now I do.

It’ s friend from college days, someone I met nearly 50 years ago. We stay in touch on Facebook. I was stunned when I read a post that said.

“Public Service Announcement: I have felt funky since last Friday or Saturday. Scratchy throat, then a sore throat, a day later headaches, then body aches, chills, and finally by Monday evening a dry cough. Worried that I might have the Coronavirus, I called my primary care physician who then referred me to the Calvert County Health Department. We currently have no testing available in our county, so she diagnosed me remotely and said I almost definitely have a moderate case of coronavirus. I have never had a fever. I have been self -isolating since March 15th, except for working at our parish food pantry on the 18th. If this was Germany, South Korea, or Norway, I would have been tested and every single volunteer at the pantry would have been tested. We need to get on top of this pandemic now.”

“Public Service Announcement: I have felt funky since last Friday or Saturday. Scratchy throat, then a sore throat, a day later headaches, then body aches, chills, and finally by Monday evening a dry cough. Worried that I might have the Coronavirus, I called my primary care physician who then referred me to the Calvert County Health Department. We currently have no testing available in our county, so she diagnosed me remotely and said I almost definitely have a moderate case of coronavirus. I have never had a fever. I have been self -isolating since March 15th, except for working at our parish food pantry on the 18th. If this was Germany, South Korea, or Norway, I would have been tested and every single volunteer at the pantry would have been tested. We need to get on top of this pandemic now.”

Then came another FB post:

Coronavirus Day 5

“Still sick, but after reading online commentaries from doctors and other sick people, I probably have what is considered a mild case. If this is “mild”, HOLY CRAP. The extreme fatigue comes and goes; I feel okay for 3 hours and then back to bed. I have no appetite (but of course, I am not losing weight!!!) The chills come and go. I might cough once or twice during the day. Duration is 2 weeks for a mild case. Self-quarantining until at least Easter Monday.”

Fortunately, things have continued to get better:

“I am probably on Day 10 of the virus, give or take a few days. Fatigue, body pain, and headaches are gone. Sore throat returned for 2 days but has dissipated again. I cough perhaps 3 to 4 times a day, always twice.”

Thank God for this great outcome! It is one thing to write as an observer about the pandemic but to see and hear about it first hand from a friend who is suffering, it’s a whole new level of reality!

God bless all who are suffering and all those heroes trying to help them!


We are now over a million cases worldwide with over 54,000 dead.

THE NEW YORK TIMES says 4 billion people (half of humanity) are under stay home orders.

In the U.S. on Friday A.M. its almost 250,000 cases and 6,000 deaths.

The latest state numbers will be posted at 2:00 P.M CDT.

You can access them here.

Here are the Metro Nashville numbers. Remember, due to different reporting procedures and deadlines, t Friday Metro numbers will not be reflected in the state’s report until Friday.

Metro officials at their Friday morning briefing that it is important to note that with the continued spread of the virus, the greater Nashville area including surrounding counties now include 1,600 cases not just the 800+ cases now confirmed in Davidson County.

“Metro Public Health Department officials announced today a total number of 808 confirmed cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in Nashville/Davidson County, an increase of 23 cases in the past 24 hours. The confirmed cases range in age from 2 months to 85 years. Yesterday’s report included a one-month-old infant. Further investigation has confirmed that the one-month-old is not a Davidson County resident.

Health officials confirmed a sixth Davidson County death related to COVID-19, a 60-year-old man with underlying health conditions.

Twenty-six (26) individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 remain hospitalized, and 103 individuals have recovered from the virus. The remaining cases are self-isolating at home and have mild and manageable symptoms.

Of the 808 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 75 individuals are healthcare workers; 56 of those healthcare workers have recovered from the virus.

The MPHD COVID-19 Hotline received 452 calls on Thursday, April 2, 2020.

Total number of Cases: 808

Number of Cases confirmed today: 23

Cases by sex
Male: 373
Female: 420
Unknown: 15

Total Cases by age
Unknown: 131
0-10 8
11-20 37
21-30 274
31-40 114
41-50 83
61-70 47
71-80 29
81+ 7

Total 808
Recovered 103
Deaths 6

Total active cases 699

Total number of tests administered Total positive results Total negative results Positive results as percentage of total

8060 808 7252 10.0%

Stay well and safe!

And stay home!