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Capitol View commentary: Friday, November 20, 2020

Capitol View
Posted at 12:49 PM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 13:49:11-05

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

November 20, 2020

FIRST WRITTEN 370 YEARS OLD, THIS OLD SAYING IS STILL TRUE; THE DARKNESS OF COVID-19 GROWS AS WINTER AND THE HOLIDAYS APPROACH; NASHVILLE CONGRESSMAN JIM COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS; MORE ISSUES THAN JUST THE VIRUS; NEXT WEEK

FIRST WRITTEN 370 YEARS OLD, THIS OLD SAYING IS STILL TRUE

A Google search finds that the English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller was the first person to commit the notion to print that 'the darkest hour is just before the dawn.'

He wrote that in 1650 in his religious travelogue “A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof.”

370 years later, in the middle of a world- wide pandemic, Mr. Fuller is still right, especially when it comes to the fight against COVID-19.

This week even as the fight to stop the virus looks potentially promising, we likely will not be able to enjoy much progress, until at least the spring, after we endure a long, dark winter.

This week saw not just one, but now two vaccines finishing their final trials, and claiming they are 95% effective against COVID-19, but questions remain about the logistics of disseminating both serums for mass use.

Meanwhile a third vaccine, still finishing its test trials, shows promise to help protect the elderly, one of the groups most at risk.

There was also help this week in detecting the virus with a new home test being approved and a new treatment approved for emergency use for those who are newly sick with the disease.

Remember there is always a Nashville connection. Several of the companies conducting the vaccine tests have been doing so in our city and one of them is including Tennessee in a pilot program on how to distribute the serum.

Finally, one of the vaccines might never have occurred without the generosity of one of country music’s brightest stars. She is someone is who is becoming one of the nation’s leading philanthropists, although in this case, she didn’t seem to know exactly what she was funding.

THE DARKNESS OF COVID-19 GROWS AS WINTER AND THE HOLIDAYS APPROACH

It has been predicted for weeks.

It is now arriving with each passing day.

And it could be just the beginning of a long dark winter even as the holiday season approaches.

The U.S. surpassed the 250,000 death mark this week with case counts and hospitalizations setting records in cities and state across the country.

Schools are closing, and reverting back to virtual learning, across the country. That includes the largest school system in the nation, New York City along with schools in the entire state of Kentucky.

The largest teacher’s association in Tennessee wants Governor Bill Lee to issue a statewide mandate for schools and provide stricter guidance for when schools should close for in person classes if the community spread of the virus becomes too high.

Governor Lee has been a strong supporter of in classroom instruction. Will he modify his stance? It does not appear likely.

Metro Nashville may not be waiting to see what the Governor does. School officials this week warned parents there is a strong likelihood Metro will go back to all virtual instruction with those in grades pre-k through 3rd grade staying home with all other Metro students after Thanksgiving.

Mayor John Cooper on Thursday announced all Metro indoor extracurricular events are being paused until further notice.

Faced with a surge in virus cases, neighboring Williamson County has taken its nearly half its schools back to virtual instruction.

All across the country, governors and mayors are imposing renewed restrictions due to the sharp rise in COVID-19, especially with next week being the Thanksgiving holiday.

On Thursday, the federal Center for Disease Control & Prevention urged Americans not to travel over the Thanksgiving holidays as the virus outbreak worsens.

Also on Thursday the virus death toll nationwide shot up to over 2,000 a day for the first time since the spring.

But here in Tennessee Governor Lee is not issuing or restoring any mandates or restrictions on holiday gatherings or anything else. He is asking Tennesseans to “stop and think” about how they are carrying out their day-to-day lives, and make common sense decisions, especially with regards to holidays and family gatherings. "What we will do is encourage Tennesseans to think hard about that," he said.. Mr. Lee is also ignoring the latest advice from the national Coronavirus Task Force at the White House to place renewed restrictions on restaurants and bars.

As for his own Thanksgiving holiday, the governor says his family will not be gathering for their traditional large holiday dinner with extended family. But he did still hold his annual political fund raiser this week.

With November far from over, Tennessee is seeing another record month on the way in terms of new virus cases and hospitalizations, which, if past is prologue, will mean more deaths in the weeks to come.

The surge in the virus is stressing hospitals and the overall health care system in several ways.

In Nashville, the virus numbers remain as bad if not worse than the previous surges last spring and in the summer. Until Thursday, the Mayor and city health officials have repeatedly begged citizens to wear a mask, wash their hands and observe social distancing with no new health restrictions being reimposed.

But with the holiday ahead, and the virus spreading largely through family and social gatherings, the Mayor is now asking everyone to follow ‘the Rule of 8.” It covers both public and private gatherings. It appears enforcement will be largely on the honor system although health officials say they will respond to, and will investigate complaints from the public, of those violating the limits on gatherings.

In terms of delayed enforcement of health mandates, this week saw the Airbnb company finally crack down on over 100 party houses in Nashville listed on their home rental system. Hopefully, that means no super spreader Thanksgiving gatherings in those places next week.

And while the city still slowly moves towards economic recovery, new jobs and investments are still coming to Nashville.

Nationally, the economy continues to look uncertain with unemployment claims rising again for the first time in 5 weeks,and as the virus surges.

Here in Tennessee, the number of those filing new unemployment claims is the lowest since March.

At the same time, the state added jobs but still saw the overall unemployment rate increase by nearly one percent.

The state’s system to process or renewed claims continues to be maddeningly slow.

Speaking of slow, Congress is back in session. With little prospect of lawmakers approving a badly needed new virus relief bill despite possible renewed negotiations, fears are rising of a potential double- dip recession.

NASHVILLE CONGRESSMAN JIM COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS

Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper is our guest on INSIDE POLITICS

Our conversation focuses on American politics being in gridlock.

The impasse includes the traditional presidential transition in Washington still being on pause following the November election.

The impasse also involves a pandemic that this week reached new levels of misery with a quarter million Americans dead and nearly a 11 ½ million our citizens infected by the COVID-19 virus.

There are also a record number of hospitalizations across the country, while the economy shows signs of going into a double dip recession.

Congress did go back into session this week.

But the Senate adjourned for Thanksgiving Wednesday night, so no action on new virus relief is coming soon, even though negotiations may continue.

Are our only rays of hope, reports of two potential vaccines that promise 95% effectiveness in stopping the virus, even though neither treatment will be widely available until at least the spring of 2021 after what look to be a very difficult winter ahead?

Watch us!

We always appreciate Congressman Cooper joining us.

INSIDE POLITICS airs several times each 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. We are also back on DISH TV with the rest of the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK.

One option for those who cannot see the show locally or who are out of town, you can watch it live with streaming video on NEWSCHANNEL5.com. 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 early in 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.

MORE ISSUES THAN JUST THE VIRUS

For Governor Lee, the sudden resignation of his Commerce & Industry Commissioner continues to be troublesome. What was first explained as a desired move back to the private sector, then complicated by employee charges of sexual harassment, now involves these revelations by NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES.

Back in Metro government, a top level police official is retiring as sexual misconduct charges loom against him.

Nashville’s Health Director is the subject of an ongoing human resources investigation. There are apparently at least two complaints being looked into although, details are not being disclosed.

As for sales tax revenues for the city of Nashville state officials say Davidson County is behind the rest of the counties in the state in terms of revenue growth.

This seems to be happening because the Nashville economy is built on tourism and events which have been decimated since the pandemic and have not bounced back. Study up, Governor Lee. Maybe that’s why the city’s requested for more CARES Act money, which you have rejected.

Nashville is the biggest engine driving Tennessee’s economy, if you don’t want to help revive it, then it will be the state’s loss ultimately.

Please don’t just view this request for help based on who wears what color jersey (red or blue).

Don’t laugh about this next item.

The Cordell Hull Building, completely renovated just a few years ago to house the offices and the committee rooms of the Tennessee General Assembly has a partial infestation of bed bugs. I guess it is a good thing it didn’t start when lawmakers were in session, which begins in January.

While getting themselves free from bed bugs, some GOP lawmakers don’t seem to be scared of COVID-19. The GOP House Caucus is holding its annual closed retreat in an in-person, overnight format.

More ominously, some Republicans have drafted legislation, for consideration next session, that would weaken the state’s vaccination law.

Another pre-filed bill for next term would significantly broaden a citizen’s right to use deadly force.

NEXT WEEK

No Capitol View column next week. Look for the next CV on Friday December 4.

For INSIDE POLITICS next weekend (November 27-28), we will be airing an encore presentation of my interview with Dr. Thomas Schwartz of Vanderbilt University about his fascinating biography of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The book is entitled HENRY KISSINGER AND AMERICAN POWER: A POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY.

The book has received interesting and mostly favorable reviews in THE WASHINGTON POST and the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR among other publications.

To everyone, have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Despite all the difficulties of 2020, I think we all still have so much to be thankful for, as we pray, that sometime in 2021, things will get closer to normal (whatever that turns out to be) !