By Pat Nolan, NEWSCHANNEL5 Political Analyst
September 24, 2021
KEEP PRAYING AS THE COVID NUMBERS ARE STARTING TO DROP; THE LATEST ON BOOSTER SHOTS; MORE PANDEMIC SIGNS AND UPDATES; ANOTHER NEW METRO FINANCE DIRECTOR; CONGRESSMAN JOHN ROSE ON INSIDE POLITICS; MAY SHE REST IN PEACE
KEEP PRAYING AS THE COVID NUMBERS ARE STARTING TO DROP
Last week I asked those reading this column to pray that the COVID-19 numbers would begin to drop.
The number did go down.
I don’t have that many readers, so some of you must have a good connection with the Almighty.
This has been a week when the virus marked another grim milestone. COVID-19 is now the deadliest pandemic in American history, surpassing the toll suffered during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.
There is more positive news to report. NPR says a new study shows that the virus and its Delta variant are now peaking nationwide. There are projections in the study that by next spring, things may return to what they were early in the summer when we seemed headed back towards closer to normal.
But there are always caveats. The study indicates some areas of the country may still see the virus raging in the months and weeks to come.
This NBC Health report indicates the decrease in virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths may be agonizingly slow to materialize.
What about Tennessee?
Our case numbers are declining. We are no longer #1 in the nation in the latest CDC report on most cases per capita in the nation. But we are still very high in that survey, ranking #2 in the country, and with a high positivity rate of close to 20% in recent days. That is way more than what health officials say we need to be at, to be safe. There are also concerns about the still large number of pediatric COVID-19 cases.
After new cases drop, decreased hospitalizations usually follow. That seems to be happening, a development which will bring some badly needed relief to Tennessee’s overtaxed health care system.
In Nashville, the percent of positive cases in the last seven days is high at just over 14% with over 5,800 active cases.
What should Nashville do to keep fighting the virus?
There seems to be some disagreement within local government.
By a vote of 21-12-4, the Metro Council on Tuesday night approved on second reading a new law to reimpose an indoor public mask mandate in the city. The approval, which requires one more vote to be final, occurs despite the city’s Board of Health declining a Council request to impose such a mandate. Health officials say we should focus on increasing vaccination rates as the best way to stop the virus.
Council members disagree, with one even claiming the Health Board is responding more to politics than protecting public health. The mask bill is also receiving strong support from a community virtual letter to city officials.
Final approval in two weeks of the public mask mandate will need to see the measure again receive at least 21 yes votes. Otherwise, the bill fails.
Already one At-Large Council member (Bob Mendes), who voted in favor of the mask mandate, is now predicting on social media the mask requirement won’t pass if the virus numbers in Nashville continue to drop over the next two weeks.
There is another question arising if the public mask mandate is approved. It concerns the reaction of the Lee administration and the Republican Super Majority in the Legislature. They are not mask fans. Will this action provoke the state to dismantle the city’s independent health department and board, which has allowed Nashville and many of the other major counties in the state, to chart their own course in responding to the pandemic? Stay tuned.
Nationwide, a survey has found with the virus still present and spreading, up to a third of businesses are going back to imposing their own restrictions. Those supporting a reinstated a mask mandate will work because local businesses will require it, as they did the last time the Health Board imposed an earlier mask requirement, which was rarely enforced. The new bill if passed will impose a $50 fine per violation.
THE LATEST ON BOOSTER SHOTS
Covid booster shots for Americans while vaccinating the rest of the world continues to be an issue (as it seems every matter related to the pandemic has become).
This week the federal Food and Drug Administration has approved millions of Americans to receive the Pfizer vaccine as a booster shot. For now, it will not be available to everyone as requested by the Biden administration. Instead, those eligible will include those over 65 and others whose health conditions put them at higher risk. Those whose job makes them more at risk if they get the disease can also receive the boosters, although a separate CDC panel voted against that, saying there is not enough research to justify it. But the CDC Director took the rare move of overruling her own panel of advisors, saying those in high- risk jobs, even the youngest, should get the extra serum.
When the rest of the final details were announced on Thursday afternoon, it seems those who have received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots may be asked to wait until their booster shot from those companies are approved possibly in the next few weeks. Good luck enforcing that as surveys show lots of fully vaccinated people have already gone out and gotten a booster job on their own.
There also continues to be controversy over Americans and others in developed countries receiving their third (or soon in Israel), a fourth dab of the serum, while the vaccination rates in underdeveloped countries in Africa remain in single digits.
America already leads the world in donating vaccine to help other countries. No doubt to further hold down criticism, President Biden this week announced the U.S. is doubling its vaccine donations to 1.1 billion doses. But with the world’s population closer to 7 to 8 billion, this country and the rest of the developed world still have a lot more work to do. We will never get COVID-19 under control unless we get the whole world vaccinated.
MORE PANDEMIC SIGNS AND UPDATES
There was a time during the pandemic that the ever- continuing raft of mass shootings across the country seem to slow in frequency.
But this week there was another senseless shooting and it happened in Collierville, Tennessee, a suburb of Memphis. We still don’t seem to have a national plan or a strategy to bring this carnage under control. It is so sad.
Here is the latest update from a news briefing Friday morning.
The sadness of the pandemic in Nashville when a deranged bomber blew up a significant portion of Historic Second Avenue downtown on Christmas Day. No one was hurt except the bomber (who was killed).
For some time, it appeared the four most heavily damaged buildings would be demolished. But plans were unveiled late this week that seek to minimize the amount of demolition needed, as the redevelopment seeks to incorporate the structures back into the historic district and connect them to the Cumberland River.
As for our recovery from the pandemic, even though events continue to be cancelled or postponed, Nashville’s famous Bluebird Café is expanding its show schedule back to all seven days of the week, which will clearly help our tourism rebound.
Another sign of recovery: the Nashville International Airport enjoyed its busiest day since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Another very positive development is research at Vanderbilt Medical Center that could have a major impact on the use of antibodies in fighting viruses such as COVID-19.
The controversy continues over who should receive monoclonal antibody treatments to fight COVID-19. The drug is expensive ($2000 for each treatment while a virus vaccine shot is $20). It is also in short supply. The treatment has been frequently used in Tennessee. Last week the federal government sought to more widely spread the anti-body treatment across the country. Now Tennessee is limiting its use to only the unvaccinated who have COVID-19.
Back to the politics in some ways impacted by the covid rebound, the growing effort to add more local regulation of the city’s tourist transportainment industry will begin in earnest at the next Metro Council session in October. To spotlight the growing controversy over the issue, three of Nashville tourist businesses who provide those controversial transport services have more or less been booted from membership in Nashville’s Tourism and Convention Bureau.
Nashville’s brewing tourism fight is even getting national media attention from THE NEW YORK TIMES.
The fight over masks in Tennessee schools continues with parents on both sides filing lawsuits and everyone waiting to see if Governor Bill Lee will extend his executive order to require parental opt-outs for their kids. The executive order is set to expire in early October and is not being enforced. The opt-out has been put on hold temporarily on hold by a federal judge in Memphis.
Elsewhere on the state level, Governor Lee and state education officials say they are thrilled with the test results they’ve seen in both math and reading from the intensive summer school camps held across the state under a program approved by the Legislature during a special session back in January. The move was aimed to reverse some of the learning loss caused by the pandemic.
But there is renewed concern among some Democratic lawmakers after the General Assembly passed a law to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Tennessee. Nobody is sure that is actually happening in the state. But now when a lawmaker is proposing teaching more black history in Tennessee schools, there are charges the bill was bumped from getting a legislative hearing this week. The blame is being pointed towards the Republican Super Majority and House Speaker Cameron Sexton.
Finally, I don’t talk much about the weather, but Tennessee is poised to set a rainfall record with three months still to go. This deluge seems to be line with growing concerns and the need for action to deal with climate change.
ANOTHER NEW METRO FINANCE DIRECTOR
Outside of the Mayor, there is no more powerful person or position in Metro government than Finance Director. The post is clearly the greatest among equals in comparison to all the other city department heads.
The position has been in flux the past several months. When Kevin Crumbo announced he was resigning to return to the private sector, the position was filled on an interim basis by Saul Solomon, who had previously served as Metro Legal Director.
But just over two weeks after the Metro Council confirmed Solomon following his nomination by Mayor Cooper, the national search to find a permanent Finance Director has identified the person Mayor Cooper wants. That nomination will go to the Council next month ending the shortest term ever as the city’s finance chief.
CONGRESSMAN JOHN ROSE ON INSIDE POLITICS
As it has often been in previous years, September is proving to be a challenging and contentious month in Washington.
Congress is trying to decide what to do about a federal spending plan with the current budget about to expire the end of the month. Without it, the government shuts down.
Lawmakers are also facing another debt limit challenge as the nation could face a first ever default on what it owes by sometime next month without raising or suspending the debt limit.
Meanwhile fights continue among Democrats over two massive trillions of dollars infrastructure bills, along with what to do about voting rights, immigration and other issues.
Our guest on INSIDE POLITICS to discuss these matters, and others such as redistricting, is Tennessee’s 6th District Republican Congressman John Rose.
We welcome the Congressman back to INSIDE POLITICS.
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MAY SHE REST IN PEACE
Deepest condolences to the family of long-time Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Cornelia (Connie) Clark who died following a short bout with cancer, it was announced Friday morning.
It will be up to Governor Lee to name her replacement.
She will be missed.