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Capitol View commentary: Friday, September 17, 2021

Capitol View
Posted at 11:36 AM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 12:36:27-04

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst

September 17, 2021

I REALLY HOPED THINGS WOULD BE BETTER; THE METRO COUNCIL CONSIDERS GETTING INVOLVED WITH MASK MANDATES EVEN THOUGH HEALTH OFFICIALS SAY NOT YET; IS NASHVILLE READY FOR THE NEXT BIG STEP IN THE SPORTS WORLD?; FORMER TOP COOPER AIDE LISA QUIGLEY ON INSIDE POLITICS

I REALLY HOPED THINGS WOULD BE BETTER

Now that I have returned from a oft-delayed trip to France, including a river cruise from Paris to Normandy and back, I really hoped I would return to a state and nation beginning to see an end to the most recent COVID-19 pandemic surge.

But no such luck. My wife and I actually felt safer overseas, than we do here in this country. Here is an example. The French have a 75% vaccination rate. Ir goes up to 82% for those over 12 years of age.

The French are wearing masks, especially indoors. And they are showing proof of vaccination cards to eat at restaurants, to enter museums or other public places. We used our CDC vaccination cards without any issues, and everyone on our cruise (all of whom were vaccinated) were also tested daily to keep everyone safe. It worked. We got the negative test we needed to fly back to the U.S., just as we did to leave to go to France.

Back in the U.S., cases are averaging 150,000 a day, which is the highest number since the winter surge earlier this year. That was also before vaccines were readily available. The United States recently surpassed 40 million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with more than 4 million of these cases reported in just the past few weeks.

Hospitalizations remain high. The current 7-day daily average for September 1–September7, 2021, was 11,754. This is a 4.1% decrease from the prior 7-day average (12,251) from August 25–August 31, 2021. The decline was slight. Pray it will continue when the CDC updates its numbers sometime today (Friday September 17).

Particularly pray that’s true for hospitalizations of young people. The CDC says “weekly rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 children ages 5 to 11 years have tripled over a recent 8-week period, from 0.3 per 100,000 children during the week ending June 26, 2021, to 0.9 per 100,000 children during the week ending August 21, 2021. These recent rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalization are the highest seen for this age group during the pandemic.”

As for the overall death rate from the virus over the last 18 months (since March 2020), it has now risen in this country to well over 650,000. In Tennessee this week, NEWSCHANNEL5’s Phil Williams reports deaths are over 314 with days still left to go. It is the state’s highest level of death since early February.

The number of total deaths is stunning. One out every 500 American residents have lost their lives to the disease. Tennessee’s death number overall from COVID is over 14,000. That number too is more than one out of every 500 Tennessee residents. Sad, scary, and in recent months, preventable.

Remember when Covid-skeptics used to scoff and say they didn’t know anyone who had died from the pandemic, or anyone who had even contracted COVID-19? I suspect no one can truthfully say that anymore as this latest surge, sparked by the highly contagious Delta variant, is particularly ravaging the unvaccinated.

There continue to be reports the Delta variant of the virus has, or will soon peak, in some of U.S. states hit the earliest and the hardest by the latest virus strike. But none of the reports I have read mention Tennessee.

It does appear anti-body treatments to combat the virus in Tennessee have been very much in demand, but they are now running short. Some see politics involved, while the Biden administration says it is trying to allocate the treatments fairly across the country.

One of the machines that helps keep Covid-19 patients is running short. The shortage is not just the number of machines available but the trained nursing personnel to operate them.

The number of vaccinated Americans continues to rise…...but now more slowly. The CDC says, “Overall, about 208.3 million people, or 62.7% of the total U.S. population, have received at least one dose of vaccine. About 177.4 million people, or 53.4% of the total U.S. population, have been fully vaccinated. As of September 9, 2021, the 7-day average number of administered vaccine doses reported (by date of CDC report) to CDC per day was 786,493, a 13.3% decrease from the previous week.”

Again, these CDC numbers will be updated sometime today. Pray they improve, a lot.

While I was out of pocket, President Biden issued new federal rules mandating vaccinations for all companies with more than 100 employees. This order, along with permanent approval of the Pfizer vaccine by the FDA, and the U. S. military mandating all its service members and other employees and vendors get their shots, should increase the vaccination numbers. The President has also ordered all federal employees to be vaccinated by late November.

But given all the red tape and bureaucracy involved in the federal rulemaking required for some of these mandates, progress may not happen quickly. The rules are being drafted are the federal OSHA department which usually oversees workplace safety not communicable diseases. Therefore look for lots of confusion and unanswered questions for a while.

Another potential roadblock: Tennessee Governor Bill Lee seems ready to join in threatened legal action by some states to stop the Biden vaccine mandate.

Governor Lee is not alone in his opposition to the President Biden’s vaccine mandate for larger employers. A Tennessee State Senator wants, what else, a special session of the General Assembly to stop this federal government overreach. Maybe the Senator needs to go back to civic class. Much as state government has jurisdiction over local governments, the federal government has jurisdiction over the states.

States can, and do, go to court if they don’t like what the feds do. But they can’t nullify a federal mandate by passing a state law or resolution. Political theatre like that is just grandstanding.

But despite all that, a handful of lawmakers and conservative activists rallied at the State Capitol on Thursday to get a special session called on COVID-19 protocols. Here we go again.

Speaking of going to court, the state Attorneys General in 24 Republican states Tennessee are preparing to file suit against what they call Biden’s “disastrous” vaccine mandate. Tennessee isn’t one of the states listed in the articles I’ve read. But I’d guess our AG will get involved.

As for booster vaccine shots, the debate seems to be yet another example of mixed or conflicting information coming from our governmental and health leaders during this pandemic. The Biden administration and others seems to say an extra shot is needed soon.

Others are maintaining boosters are not needed right now.

We will see what the decision is from the FDA advisory committee today.

World heath leaders continue to say it is wrong to have developed countries like the United States provide a third shot to its residents, while many in the under- developed third world are still waiting for their first dose of serum.

As for the state of Tennessee, under the leadership (or some would say lack thereof) of the Lee administration, the Volunteer State continues to lead the nation per capita in the number of COVID-19 cases. This is according to the latest CDC information released Wednesday.

Tennessee’s Number One status for COVID cases per capita, along with our still having close to the lowest- in- the- country vaccination rates are getting less than positive national media attention.

As for Tennessee schools, which have been a national flash point over wearing or not wearing masks in the classroom to stop the spread of the virus, Governor Bill Lee is backing away from taking punitive measures against school districts that are continuing mask mandates that don’t allow a parental opt-out as demanded by a gubernatorial executive order.

A federal judge in Memphis stayed the Governor’s order, and at the direction of President Joe Biden, the U.S. Department of Education has begun a federal civil rights investigation into the matter. Those developments would seem to be why the Governor seems to be backing off for now.

As for the virus in Tennessee schools, the state Department of Education has again begun an on-line tracker of cases updated weekly (Monday). The Department had earlier to decline or even request such information from local schools. The tracker has a breakdown by county, but not by school, and some say the numbers are understated.

Here in Nashville, even with a mask mandate, COVID-19 is present.

Some school systems say they still need more flexibility from the state in how to respond to flareups of the virus among students, teachers and staff.

You can access the state school virus tracker here.

I have not given these kinds of specific COVID-19 related numbers often in this column. But occasionally, I think it is worth doing so to show where things stand, and how challenging the pandemic remains.

But nothing speaks more to the unnecessary tragedy we continue to endure ,than this story involving a Covid survivor.

THE METRO COUNCIL CONSIDERS GETTING INVOLVED WITH MASK MANDATES EVEN THOUGH HEALTH OFFICIALS SAY NOT YET

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, some in the Metro Council want to expand the city’s mask mandate beyond just Metro buildings to any public indoor space.

Such a bill is up for second reading consideration Tuesday night September 21.

Violation would carry a $50 fine. There would be some exceptions:

· Within one’s own residence or a residence of another;

• Persons under two years old;

• Persons who cannot medically tolerate wearing a mask;

• Within one’s own or another’s motor vehicle, provided the vehicle is not used for public transportation or a vehicle for hire;

• Persons working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces that have more than adequate area for social distancing based on the size of and number of people in the space, provided that a mask must be worn when six feet of distance cannot be maintained;

• When wearing a Mask poses a safety risk or security risk;

• When actively eating or drinking in public at a restaurant, bar, or other food or beverage establishment;

• While outdoors in public spaces;

• While engaged in outdoor work or recreation;

• While in a place of worship;

· While in a building or indoor space owned, managed, or leased by the State of Tennessee or federal government.

The bill has 5 sponsors in the 40- member body. Previous mask mandates have been issued by the Metro Board of Health under state law. It is unclear whether the Council can pass such a mandate law on its own.

In fact, late Thursday afternoon the city’s Health Director on behalf of the Board of Health says he opposes an expanded mask mandate at least for now. He adds while masks are important to stop the spread of the virus, the best way to end the pandemic is for everyone to get vaccinated.

Speaking of mandates, the city’s Bridgestone Arena announced this week it is mandating proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in order for anyone to attend a concert or sports event there, effective October 2. The mandate will stay in effect until at least November which means it will apply to the early home games of the NHL’s Nashville Predators new seasons. Will other local indoor sports venues follow especially as the winter months approach and the COVID-19 virus gets worse?

In other action next Tuesday night, the Metro Council is being asked to further regulate transpotainment vehicles downtown and in Gulch despite a state law that seems to prohibit local regulation. One bill on second reading would prohibit the possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages while the vehicles are underway. Another bill on first reading has 19 sponsors. It would call for a more comprehensive makeover of the city’s oversight of the tourist vehicles.

IS NASHVILLE READY FOR THE NEXT BIG STEP IN THE SPORTS WORLD?

Nashville has many times over proven it can host and put on quite a world class party or event. As examples, the NFL and NHL Player Drafts.

The recent Grand Prix auto race downtown this summer is another recent example.

Is our city ready to take the next step up in sports?

Is Nashville ready to host a World Cup Soccer game? The World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world!

The world soccer officials who will decide if we will host a game in 2026 were in Nashville this week to check everything out.

Nashville is competing with 27 other major U.S. and North American cities, with 10- 11 to be chosen to host.

Having grown up and lived in Nashville for almost 7 decades, I have seen our community grow and mature to host sports teams and events I would never have thought possible.

I have no inside knowledge as to Nashville’s chances. We are the smallest city left in the running. The pundits say we are likely out of the running. Even Nashville’s leading tourist and event guru, Butch Syridon says it might take another Music City miracle for the city to get selected.

But I do know this, whatever we decide as a community we want to do, we almost always find a way to get it done.

So, if that true in terms of hosting a World Cup contest, it may not happen, don’t bet against our chances.

FORMER TOP COOPER AIDE LISA QUIGLEY ON INSIDE POLITICS

As we head towards the fall, there are many political challenges, including the pandemic, that continue to face us.

Local and state governments across the country, including here in Tennessee are trying to figure out how to take the 2020 Census results to redraw legislative, congressional, even school boards districts in time for the 2022 elections.

Meanwhile as Congress returns to Washington, it faces a number of critical deadlines this month. That includes passing a new federal budget and dealing with the country facing a potential unprecedented credit crunch unless it extends the nation’s spending limits. And there is still what to do about the two infrastructure plans Democrats are trying to pass totaling well over $4 trillion.

Finally, there are also renewed concerns about safety in Washington with a rally set to be held this weekend claiming those arrested in the January 6th riot at the Capitol are being treated unfairly.

To bring her insights and perspectives on these issues, we welcome Lisa Quigley as our guest on INSIDE POLITICS. She is the former Chief of Staff to Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper.

We welcome Lisa to the program.

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