Posts

“I CRY OVER THIS” — “Frustrated” & “Helpless” TN Leg Assistants Discuss TN’s UNEMPLOYMENT NIGHTMARES Crisis

As we and many others have reported, thousands of Tennesseans have been unable to access unemployment even since the beginning of the pandemic. The stories have been nothing short of heartbreaking.

The Holler has obtained emails from assistants at the Tennessee legislature where they discuss the “helpless” and “frustrated” feelings of not being able to help their constituents.

The emails are below. We’ve removed their names and identifying phrases to protect their anonymity.

This is an awful situation, and did not have to happen. Tennessee and Governor Lee have had plenty of time to fix this. The time for excuses has long since passed.

From:
Sent:
To: Staff
Subject: unemployment

Hey guys, I’ve hesitated to send out an email regarding unemployment issues, but I’ve talked to several assistants who are more than frustrated as I am, that more isn’t being done.  Some of our constituents have been told there is a glitch in the system, but that was two months ago.  Is there still a glitch in the system?  If so, why?  I know I, as has everyone here, spoken to so many broken people, from some losing their businesses, to going to a food bank for food for the first time in their lives, and they want answers, too.

Is anyone getting their claims done in a timely manner?  If so, I would love to know your secret.  We have addressed these concerns to some in the Administration, and we’ve been placated for a time being or not answered at all.  Are any of you experiencing the same thing?

I understand they hired more people, but just to answer phones and tell folks they just have to wait, which is no help at all.  If any of you have any suggestions or ideas to share on how to get a better response or any response at all from the department, I would love to know them.  In my 35 years up here, I haven’t seen it so bad that we can’t even get an acknowledgement of our requests and a sincere pledge to fix what is wrong.

Since we can’t mingle as we used to and see one another, this is the only way I know to get a feeling of how everyone is doing with this.  Thanks for listening even if you don’t have an answer.

 

From: 
Date: 
To: 
Subject: RE: unemployment

I have no secret or tips to give.  My cases are just like yours.  All over the place with no rhyme nor reason as to why one is being paid before another. I know some cases are more difficult, but I haven’t seen that as a factor as some hard cases are getting paid, and some standard cases are not.

I did let the Gov’s office know that we do not consistently get a confirmation email, so when the person calls back to say they haven’t heard anything, I have no choice but to file a new ticket as I do not have an email to respond to or a number to call or anything.

I’m feeling pretty useless, too.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: Re: unemployment

I also have so secrets, but I can build off of what — said:

Putting in multiple tickets: “Please remember that submitting multiple tickets for a constituent doesn’t speed up the process, but instead slows it down for the others who are waiting for a call. I see that there have been three different tickets opened up for him and that two of those came after he had been in contact with the department.”

Anytime I have a question about multiple tickets I email __ with an update, even though I get a response days later. When submitting tickets you can see a green confirmation email then it has been submitted. The only issues I have seen is if you don’t have SSN then it doesn’t submit properly, so I change it to 1234, or 4321.

I also use consistent messaging for every unemployment issue that helps:

We have submitted a request in to have someone contact you. Granted they are receiving 100’s of requests a day, so it could take a while. On average, all of the claims are being responded to in 10 – 14 business days. If you have not received any communication in 10 days, please call the office at 615-741-1000 and we will see if we know more information.

Someone from the unemployment office will be contacting you, so please answer unknown numbers. You will also receive an email from legislative request that will recap your claim. Responding to that email will allow the unemployment office and myself see, so if you see anything you would like to add or change.

Just a reminder, it is not worth your time to be placed on hold and calling the unemployment office, the quickest response is by having me put in a ticket for you. Lastly, submitting multiple tickets (especially with multiple people) will delay your response, so please be patient. I promise, someone is working on it.

I use consistent messaging so that they stop reaching out to different offices to try and get different responses.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

Hello all, this is just a little to add to some of what everyone else is dealing with:

When I do get a call, I ask if that person has contacted another legislator and advise them creating multiple tickets will not help- I inquire if they have continued to recertify weekly and I advise them to keep their cell phone with them at all times and answer any unknown numbers. I also ask if they have submitted all their wage information and make sure they follow up and be sure the department has all the documents they need to process the claim.  It appears that many cases that were submitted in mid -April for some reason seemed to have more issues than some of the others and  I also seem to have more issues with small business operators for some reasons- such as more calls related to hair dressers and the like and I’m not sure why.

As for the ones who are concerned about losing their homes, utilities getting cut off, etc- I remind them that many lenders made pledges during this crisis that they would not foreclose and many would not charge late charges. I have found that the companies will not offer this service but if the constituent reaches out and asks for more assistance, usually they will receive that. I have offered to contact lenders or landlords on their behalf, contacted utility companies for them, I have loaned one family money because they did not even have enough money for gas or groceries and they had small children- we have offered to pick up food boxes for families, and at one point I even reached out to the department and offered to take an hour or two out of my day to pitch and help them submit claims if needed.  I have not heard back from our liaison of the department at all.

I think we all understand we have more claims than ever and the Department is very busy.  At this point though, it is extremely frustrating when, like some of you, I have families who filed in March and to date still have not received anything. I have some whose legislative tickets went in four to six weeks ago and that constituent still hasn’t received a phone call. Sometimes we get a confirmation email and sometimes we don’t.  It is very embarrassing to not be able to answer any of their questions and not to be able to give them a date when someone might call them back.  Also, I have real concerns since this is an election year that our members are going to get out on the campaign trail and they may lose because the constituents feel like we have not been able to represent them very well, despite our diligence and multiple attempts to do so.

If anyone needs any resources that are helpful, let me know and I’m happy to try to share some if I have them.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

My apologies-  I meant to send this from my email, not Rep. ____. To add a little more to some of the notes though…

We are also dealing with many cases that might receive one-two weeks of unemployment and then for some reason we are finding cases closed before resolution.

We also are having more problems with self-employed claims.

Also, we have a great deal of constituents who may have made an initial mistake in entering their claim during the “glitch in the system” era, who may just have a simple question but they are unable to reach anyone to help them navigate through the process.

Thanks to everyone for the input. It is very much appreciated.

Everyone hang in there. Hopefully we will all get through this together.  Hugs to all.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: Re: unemployment

​For some of my constituents that are down to their last dime, I suggest they call a local church (food pantry) or the Am. Red Cross.

I had one constituent sing her song sad song: “Well, it’s not that.”  Okay, another suggestion, “Well, it’s not that.”  After about 3 more suggestions, I suggested that it might be time for her to find a job at the grocery until her permanent job returns.  “Well, I can’t do that.”  As suspected, she wanted me to do all the work for her and she wanted me to give her a hand-out.  After the grocery suggestion, the daily (sometimes multiples in a day) ceased.

My heart breaks for a lot of these constituents and I have only had one like this but sometimes it just takes one.

I look forward to seeing you all soon!

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

OMG.  NONE of the “sad songs” I’ve heard have been anything less than heartbreaking. I cry over this sometimes.  Wow. Just wow.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

I agree. Sometimes I don’t want to answer the phone because I know it’s one more single mother being evicted or a single father going to the food bank for the first time in his life or a man selling all his tools of his trade to make ends meet.  And I’ve had a few who’ve had their electricity cut off.  I’ve referred them to everyone I know and even sent a Kroger gift card to one gentleman.  I can’t do that for everyone of course, and I know some others who’ve done the same thing up here.  And then I feel guilty and blessed because I have a job during this horrible time, as well.  I’ve only had one constituent out of a hundred or more who has lied to me that I know of, even so, I still trust as I know all of you do.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: Re: unemployment

​I’ve received several emails this morning stating that constituents received a call that rang once, hung up, and then had a generic “Hello, I attempted to call you and no one answered. Our specialist team will reach out and try to call you again very soon” email sent to them. This concerns me greatly because this counts as one of the agent’s 3 attempts to reach our constituents. Something must be done about this “one ring/hangup” approach because I’m hearing the same story too often for it to be a coincidence.

Is anyone else having this problem – or are my constituent cases the only ones who are being treated this way?

Thank you!

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: unemployment

I’ve had several tell me their phone never rang and there was no evidence of a call on their call history.

 

From:
Sent:
To:
Subject: Re: unemployment

​YES! That as well. I don’t understand why this is happening.

 

From: 

Subject: RE: unemployment

Date: 

To: 

I’ve had several say the same. I tell them that if they send you an email to respond back to the email with a good time to reach them. I don’t know if that works but I email zendesk back with the time that the constituent has given me is a good time. That way we are on the same page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOV. LEE’S WILDLY HYPOCRITICAL “RACE, JUSTICE, EQUALITY” EMAIL TO STATE EMPLOYEES

A state employee has forwarded us an email that apparently just went out to all state employees from Governor lee that touches on “race, justice, and equality”.

We’ve included it below in its entirety.

In it, Lee claims he’s “engaging with minority leaders”, yet he has blockaded a public plaza and turned his troopers the protestors who have been sleeping outside the capitol for 10 days straight. Dozens of peaceful protestors have been arrested, and JUST TODAY his sent his troopers after them for no reason yet again.

He also claims to care about “serving” the minority community… yet he won’t support removing the KKK GRAND WIZARD BUST from the capitol, and just chickened out of ending KKK GRAND WIZARD DAY, which he promised to do.

Not only that, but his party just KILLED AN AMENDMENT that would’ve given ALL state employees the same raise he himself is scheduled to get in this next budget – instead choosing to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the “RAINY DAY FUND” which already has over $1 BILLION in it.

These are the facts.

Below is the email in its entirety, and below that is a note from the state employee who sent it, which we ask you to read as well.

Here’s the key section from Lee’s email:

“Our goal is not only to create a safe work environment but also an environment where employees thrive. Events over the last few weeks have spurred many conversations in our country around race, justice and equality. I am using this time to further engage with minority leaders and faith leaders to evaluate just how we are serving every Tennessean and how we can improve.

I have asked Commissioner Williams and the Tennessee Department of Human Resources to build a framework for strengthening efforts around the minority experience in our workplace. This is an opportunity to ensure working with the State of Tennessee is an edifying and equitable experience for every single employee who has chosen the calling of public service.

Despite the uncertainty of the times, I know that our state’s workforce is highly equipped for this season. Maria and I are thankful to serve with you and I hope to be able to resume department visits, soon.”

And here are the thoughts of the state employee:

“These are the thoughts I cannot let go of today since reading that email. Who are these minority leaders he’s expecting to engage with, if not the folks that have been waiting peacefully outside the Capitol for weeks?

How can working at the State ever be an “edifying and equitable experience” if being a Tennessean isn’t one?

As a State employee one of my objective duties set by the Governor’s office is to improve safety. We learn about and apply new, proven safety tactics as soon as we hear about them so we can save more lives.

Why isn’t the Governor also guided by this principle when people are outside his office chanting “I can’t breathe”?

I don’t want HR to make an “effort around the minority experience”. I want systemic changes that can start with decisions from the Governor that will save lives.

Well said. To let Lee know how you feel, Holler at him HERE.

P.S.

Lee is handpicking who he meets with. He has been running and hiding from black voters…

…and ignoring black legislators pleading for inclusion.

 

Mitchell’s Bill To Kill Lee’s Vouchers Dies

WATCH: “Delete the voucher program… it’s ILLEGAL… we’re wasting the courts’ time with something we know is wrong.”

Bo Mitchell’s bill to kill Gov. Lee’s “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” private school vouchers fails for lack of a second.
(Thanks to: Byrd, Moody, Dunn, White, Deberry, Cochran)

TODAY’S HOLLER: Burchett’s Anti-Science Fearmongering, Lee’s Unemployment Nightmares

LIKE WHAT WE’RE DOING?
FORWARD THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS & FAMILY AND TELL
THEM TO “FOLLER THE HOLLER” AND SUBSCRIBE!
(And chip in HERE to help us grow!)

We hope you’re all having a good Memorial Day Weekend.
Today we remember the brave Americans we’ve lost to our wars,
and pray for those we’ve lost and continue to lose to the war on science.

TODAY’S HOLLER:

REP. TIM BURCHETT’S ANTI-SCIENCE CONTACT TRACING FEARMONGERING:  This weekend actual sitting TN GOP Congressman Tim Burchett in Knoxville argued against contact tracing health experts say could save lives… because of empty fearmongering tinfoil hat nonsense👇🏽

TN Has just 25% of the recommended CONTACT TRACERS. ‬That’s 1500 jobs not filled. ‬
‪1500 people not saving lives. As Gov. Bill Lee sleeps at the wheel and Rep. Burchett fearmongers, more people are out of work… and more will get sick and die. ‬

PSA: If you think laws that force girls/women to carry a rapist’s baby to term are good, but programs that could help save lives during a deadly pandemic are “government overreach”, it might be time to re-think some things.

GOV. LEE’S TN UNEMPLOYMENT NIGHTMARES CONTINUE: “I have a premature baby at home and I can’t even afford preemies right now.” ‬– One of many emotional stories at the TN House Democratic Caucus UNEMPLOYMENT NIGHTMARES Town hall.‬ ‪Thousands of struggling Tennesseans have been waiting for benefits since MARCH. Non-Facebook Link

ALSO:

-‪Trump Education Secretary BETSY DEVOS is blatant about using the virus to advance her public school-harming private school agenda by steering money to them. ‬And Gov. Lee is doing it with her.

Even Lamar thinks it’s wrong.

-Thousands dead.‬ Millions unemployed. ‬Billions lost. ‬Still, Gov. Lee will NOT give up his “UNCONSTITUTIONAL” private school vouchers. ‬

-This is a woman flipping off Trump’s motorcade as he heads to play golf in Virginia… the last woman that did this quickly became an elected official.

-‪Speaking of which, here’s our CARTOON OF THE DAY 😢‬

-‪100,000 dead & an economic depression because of a failure to act… but sure fly those banners buddy. ‬(They’re being MADE IN CHINA by the way)

-Meanwhile, this is what’s going on in the Ozarks. Unreal. Also, pretty grross even without a Pandemic. Non-Facebook Link

STUDY: 24 states still have “uncontrolled virus spread” ‬ — Yes, Tennessee is 1 of them.

-One big difference between Biden and Trump: Biden apologizes.

-WATCH Fox’s Steve Doocy say “the government won’t let” Fox hosts be together in studio… then immediately walk it back and encourages people to work from home if they can.🧐‬–WATCH 😷 WHAT 😷 THEY 😷 DO, NOT 😷 WHAT 😷 THEY 😷 SAY‬. Non-Facebook Link

A NIKE warehouse in MEMPHIS turned away health department inspectors after a worker died… now 20+ workers have tested positive. Nike has some explaining to do.

-‪Republicans are now LITERALLY SUING to stop people from voting safely 🚨🇺🇸‬ 🗳

-‪Colorado’s Secretary of State calling Trump on his vote-suppressing lies👇🏽🤥🤥🤥🤥🤥‬

Voter fraud is not a thing. Voter suppression is.
Trump votes by mail. Your elected officials vote by mail. The military. The elderly.
Vile Truth: Republicans are using the virus and putting you at risk as an excuse to cling to power.

The Tennessean’s David Plazas: “VOTE BY MAIL IS SAFER AND MORE RELIABLE THAN EVER” and dispenses of the notion that voter fraud is real (10 cases in TN in FIFTEEN YEARS… mostly perpetrated by ELECTION OFFICIALS). ‬Again: GOP Voter suppression is very real though.‬

FOX’S CHRIS WALLACE: “You told us 60,000 would die. We’re almost over 100,000. What happened?”
DR. BIRX: *Rambles for 2 minutes without saying anything* Non-Facebook Link

TN GOP REP. BRUCE GRIFFEY doesn’t like loud chanting at the TN Capitol to have the STATUE OF THE FIRST KKK GRAND WIZARD REMOVED… and thinks protestors should be subject to arrest. 🤔‬ So much for “constitutionalists”.

-Trump retweeted horrific tweets calling a former first lady a “skank” and mocking Stacy Abrams’ weight. Some are angry we’re amplifying these, but we feel it’s important to remind any fence-sitters what a terrible human being this man is.

A New Biden ad eviscerates Trump for being too “weak”, “scared”, “indecisive”, and concerned with his own re-election to lead during the pandemic. Non-Facebook link

-‪PANDEMIC LESSON: We’re only as healthy as the sickest among us. ‬There are no MORAL reasons to care for uninsured folks suffering only from this particular virus, only POLITICAL ones… ‬Health care should be a RIGHT, not a PRIVILEGE. #ExpandMedicaidTN #MedicareForAll ‬

Don’t forget to FOLLER the new MEMPHIS HOLLER  KNOXVILLE HOLLER CHATTANOOGA HOLLER

And please consider CHIPPING IN MONTHLY to help us keep GROWING…  make it $10 and we’ll send you a holler hat! (note your address on PayPal and which color you want when you chip in)

GRAPHIC OF THE DAY: “A Downward Trend?”

Lee says we’re in a “downward trend”, the data, Vandy experts, and Fox’s Chris Wallace disagree.

ANOTHER “L” FOR LEE: GOV’S #1 PRIORITY (VOUCHERS) DECLARED “UNCONSTITUTIONAL”

If you’ve been following us for any amount of time hopefully you have some context on this, but just in case, here’s a quick rundown of how we got to this point…

Governor Lee made public school-harming private school vouchers his #1 priority coming into office.

Not fixing our public schools, which get an “F” for funding. Not fixing health care, which has us at #1 in Medical bankruptcies & rural hospital closures per capita, which could easily be addressed by expanding medicaid and accepting the $1 BILLION of OUR OWN TAX DOLLARS earmarked for us every year.

Nope. Vouchers.

Lee wants to see MILLIONS of public school funds steered to private (often religious/Christian) schools. To get it passed, he had the help of Trump Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, who is on record saying her agenda is to “Advance God’s Kingdom” by raiding the public school war chest in America, and disgraced former speaker Glen Casada, who held the tie vote open for 35 minutes until he finally coerced Rep. Jason Zachary of Knoxville into flipping his vote and selling out Tennessee’s public schools.

To be clear, NONE of the rural reps wanted vouchers for their own districts. They only wanted to impose them on Nashville and Memphis and their more diverse student bodies… even though many admitted they wouldn’t want that done to their districts.

The rollout was equally problematic. The Tennessee Dept. of Education handed out an expensive no-bid contract for more than the amount that was allocated to the program, and Lee intentionally sped up the rollout an extra year for no apparent reason other than impatience. Many Republican representatives began to regret their votes for the bill, including TN GOP House Caucus leader Jeremy Faison. 

There were also rumors of an FBI investigation, the offering of military promotions, the list goes on… which brings us to last night, when the program was finally declared “unconstitutional” by a court after Shelby & Davidson counties sued.

Another L for Lee.

It isn’t over. There will be challenges. But Lee’s losing streak in the courts continues, a natural extension of a radical right agenda in a GOP supermajority state where the only backstop the constitution has is the judicial branch. Thankfully, for now, it seems to be holding up.

HERE WERE SOME REACTIONS:

 

Of course, not everyone is thrilled. Senator Brian Kelsey makes it clear there will be appeals.

VIDEO: GOVERNOR LEE GRILLED 🔥🔥ON REFUSAL TO EXPAND MEDICAID

At his first Virus update presser of the week yesterday, Governor Lee was grilled repeatedly, first by Alex Apple of Fox Nashville, then by Phil Williams of News Channel 5, about his refusal to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

Expanding Medicaid would bring $1 BILLION of our own tax dollars back to our state each year. Instead Lee is touting a new $10 MILLION grant to rural hospitals. Meanwhile we’re #1 in rural hospital closures per capita and medical bankruptcies.

Not expanding literally is policy murder.

Lee says he’s only concerned about virus victims right now, but the truth is there’s no moral reason to be less concerned about those suffering from other diseases who have just recently become unemployed through no fault of their own, and who now find themselves without insurance. There are only political reasons.

Read this new STUDY that lays out what a huge mistake Lee and the Tennessee GOP supermajority are making, and watch the video below:

“IT’S A CLUSTER. GET YOUR CRAP TOGETHER.” – A Ballad Health Hospitalist Speaks Out

Governor Lee has spent the past few weeks telling us “the storm is passing”, but the virus doesn’t appear to be listening. It continues to spread at a rapid pace, including here in Tennessee. Even our rural communities are far from immune, with massive outbreaks in Sumner County and then just two days ago at a nursing home in Cookeville.

After 10+ days of urging from thousands of Tennessee doctors and nurses Lee finally issued a stay-at-home mandate Thursday, citing traffic data from Unacast showing movements in Tennessee starting to tick up again as his reason, particularly in rural Tennessee. (Unacast gives TN a “D-” for social distancing and an “F” to over half our counties)

Lee believes the Unacast data means rural TN is still not taking the threat of the virus seriously enough. The data does show an uptick recently, but it’s not the first uptick in recent days, so it seems a convenient reason to justify doing something he really didn’t want to do.

He was the 40th governor to issue a stay-at-home mandate.

Waiting nearly 2 weeks to do what he should’ve done a long time ago likely means many more will be infected, particularly because this disease is largely spread by folks who don’t show any symptoms, and who don’t even know they have it. This is why it’s still of utmost importance to have people of all ages and health conditions to look at pages such as https://www.sciquip.co.uk/products/ppe.html and others so they’re able to purchase suitable personal protective equipment to protect themselves and others against the spread of the virus.

The people most at risk are our frontline health care workers. They’ve been getting standing ovations from their neighbors all around the world for good reason, and they deserve to be the “TIME MAGAZINE PERSON OF THE YEAR” this year with no close second.

The problem is, despite Governor Lee’s assurances, we’re not properly protecting them. While health care workers in China appear to have Hazmat suits to go to battle with, our health care workers here in America are being given sports ponchos and garbage bags, and even being told to strap diapers on their faces in Tennessee – despite Governor Lee telling us otherwise.

As recently as yesterday Lee said “we’re staying ahead of the need” here, but those whose lives are on the line tell a different story. We spoke to a hospitalist in the Northeast Tennessee Ballad Health Care system about the lack of preparedness and communication there.

She spoke to us on a condition of anonymity to express her concern about the way things are being handled at Ballad hospitals – and it seems fair to wonder if this isn’t how it is in many hospitals around our state. (The anonymity comes because she’s certain Ballad would fire her if her identity got out. Not only are our health care workers not being protected throughout the country, they’re also being pressured to stay silent)

For context, Ballad is a state-sanctioned health care monopoly in Northeast Tennessee with over a dozen hospitals. They have come under fire recently for suing thousands of poor folks for not being able to pay their hospitals bills,

They were also the target of over 200 days of protest in Kingsport, and CEO Alan Levine was the mouthpiece for a company that was found guilty of Medicare fraud and forced to pay $260 MILLION in fines. (He was also recently tapped by Governor Lee for his statewide charter school approval board, which is in place to override local rulings on charter schools, and he has been known to insult people on twitter from time to time.)

But Levine’s transgressions aside, the Ballad Hospitalist tells us the reaction by Ballad has been “A CLUSTER”, citing a lack of protective equipment and testing and poor communication and education of frontline health care workers.

To be fair, these don’t seem to be entirely uncommon issues throughout the country, but the picture she paints is much different from the rosier one Governor Lee is painting for us at his press conferences, which still seem to lack the needed wartime urgency.

The Ballad Hospitalist started out by talking about masks, saying frontline health care workers at Ballad Health weren’t even wearing PPE like surgical masks throughout the day until recently:

“We didn’t even get surgical masks until 3 days ago (March 31st). Even when we knew it could be present. I had started wearing a surgical mask because it’s all I could get. It was frowned upon, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t find an N-95, but I do wear a surgical mask. We get ONE for the entire day, that’s it.”

She said nurses whose masks break or get misplaced are afraid to go ask for another one, and tells a story of having to go to bat for a nurse who couldn’t find theirs.
About the fact that supplies are so short, she has no patience for it:

“We don’t have enough supplies? GET THEM. This is your people. This is going to kill people. Maybe they didn’t think it was going to come to podunk Tennessee. But it’s here. At least 20 cases at Ballad that I know of. We’ve had 3 deaths, and at least 3 health care workers are now sick.

Governor Lee and the Tennessee Department of Health continue to brag about how many people Tennessee is testing as a way to deflect criticism being leveled at them in comparison to neighboring states like Kentucky, which took stronger, quicker action against the spread, has seen its numbers climb far more slowly, and recently told their citizens not to travel to Tennessee.

But despite the claim that there are no-to-few barriers to testing in Tennessee, tests are taking up to 10 days to turn around, and many are still being denied tests throughout the state and country. Some sites in TN are even charging up to $200 per test, which destroys the idea that “whoever wants a test can get one”.

The Ballad Hospitalist still has serious concerns:

“We really weren’t even testing for it. Nobody really knows who’s supposed to be testing or what the hell they’re doing. The Director of the ER has been complaining how the testing works, do we or don’t we? They don’t want to test in the ER. We just now got the rapid testing which can be turned around in 6 hours. Here in the USA we should be testing everybody.”

One of her biggest concerns at Ballad was communication, which she said is all over the place, and has led to a lot of confusion among health care workers that interact with sick patients on a daily basis:

“They’re just not communicating well. Nobody really knows what to do. Education is lacking. I watch these nurses, they have no idea how to put on or take off protective equipment. The nurse has a Covid patient, then has a full patient load and has to go deal with other patients. They’ve been putting nurses at the door to take our temperature as we come in, but I’ve been having to tell nurses to take my temperature. They just ask “you don’t have a temperature do you”?

I do think there’s going to be a huge surge of problems.”

As for what happens when a health care worker is concerned they might have been exposed or feel symptoms, she says nurses are being forced to use their paid time off, and they’ve started laying off staff – something many hospitals have been doing now that elective procedures, which are reimbursed by insurance companies at a higher rate, have stopped – the perils of an entirely for-profit health care system.

As for her message to Ballad, it’s simple really: “Get your crap together.”

“Ballad needs to GET THEIR CRAP TOGETHER. I think Ballad historically does a good job with things. A lot of people have complained since Ballad combined two systems into one, and some jobs were cut and pay was reduced – but when it comes to health care I think they’ve done a pretty good job. BUT THIS HAS BEEN A CLUSTER.

It’s sad to me because I see such a mix of people that still don’t think it’s a big deal. Even doctors I’ve heard say this is being blown out of proportion. Sadly I think that’s because they live here. READ THE NEWS. Look what’s going on in other places. They say it’s because the numbers are skewed. No. This is real.”

As for what made her start to take it seriously, she points to a Washington hospitalist who spoke her language about what patients are going through.

“A hospitalist in Washington speaking about a patient’s progression is what really spoke to me. I was like – okay, this is a big deal. This thing is ugly. She was talking about her co-workers dropping like flies, speaking about it in a medical language that I could understand, from medical people that have seen it. Not news speak. “
Unfortunately, The Ballad Hospitalist has to stay anonymous because she says it’s clear that if you speak out Ballad will fire you – their emails say “CONFIDENTIAL NOT TO BE SHARED WITH MEDIA” – and they’re really the only employer in the area for what she does.
We appreciate her, and that she was willing to talk to us. Frontline health care workers are heroes, and they deserve to be protected.

The bottom line is in the richest country in the world we’ve lacked a uniform, comprehensive reaction to this problem, and we have been caught unprepared in large part because of a reluctance by Trump (and Fox News) to take the problem seriously until it was too late. (also, cutting the CDC budget and firing the Pandemic response team didn’t help)

Our numbers have skyrocketed. Our outbreak is the worst in the world. Our for-profit health care system system has been exposed on many levels, and we can only hope now our state doesn’t suffer even more because of a slow response and lack of seriousness by our local officials, state government, and hospital management here at home.

If you want to tell Governor Lee to hurry up and get the needed testing and gear for workers like her, holler at him HERE.

WE ASKED, YOU ANSWERED: “ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES” STILL OPEN? (FOLLERER RESPONSES)

Governor Lee has NOT issued a shelter-in-place order despite the pleas of medical professionals. Instead he is “urging” folks to stay home while ordering “essential businesses” closed.

The catch? His order includes a laundry list of “essential businesses” that basically lets everyone off the hook.

Lee also believes enforcement isn’t necessary because he’s sure everyone will just comply.

We asked y’all to tell us which local businesses that clearly are not “essential” are still open. Below are some of your responses.

FOLLERER RESPONSES:

Pollock Printing in NASHVILLE

Lowe’s in CLARKSVILLE has remained open with ineffective disinfection material and continue to schedule a woman who has cancer! I’m immunocompromised so everytime my roommate goes home from work, I’m in danger.

American Greetings – Greeting cards are not essential

Hobby Lobby in GREENEVILLE is open. Not sure if other locations are or not.

The damn Bass Pro Shop in East Ridge, TN (part of CHATTANOOGA) is still open. Why are decoys, guns, or deer bait necessities right now??!

Hobby Lobby Kingsport TN

Just about everything in Sevierville, PF, and Gatlinburg. The amount of people out still doing the tourist thing is staggering.

Jostens in CLARKSVILLE. They are forcing the entire plant to work 6 days a week and you get points even if you are sick. Around 400 employees. They make yearbooks. Not essential at all.

Whirlpool in CLEVELAND is still operating on full shifts. They employ over 1000 people who all work in close quarters. That plant manufactures stoves and microwaves. I seriously doubt that those particular items are ‘essential’ during this health crisis.

US SMOKELESS TOBACCO Closed down, forcing folks back April 1st, Located At 800 Harrison St NASHVILLE, Be The Judge Of The Necessity,Have A Great Day…!!!!

Knoxville Wholesale Furniture is still operating.

(Also: Knoxville Wholesale Furniture is still open. The owner had a fund raiser at his home on February 23 for Moscow Mitch. $10,000 donors. Marsha Blackburn attended. Owner says they are essential because they do deliveries.)

Books-a-Million in MT. JULIET and MURFREESBORO are still somehow open! I don’t get it. Friends that work there are flabbergasted. I mean, it’s a BOOKSTORE in a PANDEMIC!

grooming shop in CHURCH HILL. Groomers corner. The husband of the owner just called the county mayor of hawkins county and they told them they can stay open Also I called my regional health department in Sullivan county bc there is one I know for sure is open in BLUFF CITY and the man I spoke to told me that (paraphrasing here) since they don’t provide vet services they are considered non-essential but since there is no official mandate they are leaving it to the goodwill of the people to shut down.

RESOLUTE FOREST PRODUCTS, formerly Bowater in CALHOUN

The Whistle Stop in GREENEVILLE still had dine-in as of last week. I haven’t checked this week. It is across the street from Tusculum University where 5 students tested positive.

Also, John Deere in GREENEVILLE, they only make lawn mowers at that plant, so I don’t really understand what makes them essential. I could see it if they were making tractors here. Most of the drive through employees I’ve seen do not have gloves, mask (understandable with the shortage I guess).

Also, in Pal’s GREENEVILLE which is my kids favorite place is too small for the employees to work 6 feet apart. Most of this town is just acting like everything is normal.

The Hookah Hookup has still remained open (it is closed the next few days for inventory and the owner considers it an essential business because we carry snacks. I’ve called the health department and mayors office multiple times and no one can do anything! A smoke shop is not an essential business

Bedrugs factory on Myatt Drive in Davidson Co. — They are open, making Bedrugs for pick up trucks…. Owned BY Truck Hero in Michigan

Tmobile Call Center on 695 Grassmere Park NASHVILLE is still open

I live in GREENE COUNTY. Most if not all factories are refusing to shut down. They’re claiming to be an essential business. That they make something used by hospitals, which IMO, isn’t true for most if not all of them. We’re up to 14 confirmed cases of the virus. It’s climbing every day. They are putting their employees and their families at risk. I’m afraid it could already be too late, but hopefully I’m wrong. Thank you for all that you do to keep us informed. It is very appreciated.

hey, both Simply Mac locations are still operating and they’re absolutely not essential businesses. I have 2 friends who work there who are both high risk for COVID-19. Simply Mac is just trying to slide under the radar and actually laid off most of their employees. Ive tried calling the mayor’s office but I doubt that did anything. there are two locations in NASHVILLE. One in the same plaza as the Vanderbilt Barnes & Noble, and one in the Wedgewood Houston area. the store manager for those locations is NOT responsible for the call to stay open, she’s tried very hard to push for them to close. The corporate offices for Simply Mac are located in Salt Lake City, Utah

Bass Pro is not essential. They had someone that worked there that tested positive and closed per the mayor’s order to shut down businesses. They found a loophole and reopened three days later stating that no one can shut down a place that sells guns other than the federal government. They are not requiring customers stay 6 ft apart. No extra cleaning. Essential employees can only take off if they get the virus or they can quit. Complete disregard for their employees or the public. Only concerned about money.

Here were some twitter responses:

And then this… man’s got a point!
Here’s what a real order looks like:

IF YOU HAVE ANYONE YOU WANT TO ADD TO (OR SUBTRACT FROM)  THIS LIST, Holler at us: thetnholler@gmail.com

Or on Twitter & Facebook

Stay safe, and stay home.

GOV. LEE: “NON-ESSENTIAL SERVICES MUST CLOSE” (But Pretty Much Everything is “Essential”)

Yesterday Governor Bill Lee held a press conference during which he seemed like he was going to finally declare a shelter-in-place order one day after Sumner County was especially hard hit, sending 59 people from a senior center to the hospital and lurching to 179 cases total.

Instead, he made it clear it was NOT that order, but was instead an “urging” for people to stay home and simply an order to close “non-essential businesses”.

Reporters were a bit confused, and rightly wondered why he expected anyone would start listening to him now.

You can watch the weak display here:

Lee says this orders “non-essential businesses” close. But what are “essential” businesses, you may wonder? The answer is PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING.

The order comes with a laundry list, and it seems pretty much any business could find a way to qualify. Lee also said NOTHING about what the consequences would be for staying open. Just more “urging” and “suggesting”, despite all the evidence showing us real mandates and strong action is working around the country.

9 of the 10 states that saw the fastest growth last week were in Republican states like ours. TN cases have more than doubled over the last 5 days. Over 2000 doctors have asked him to issue a shelter-in-place order.

This will likely do nothing to stem the tide, even though Lee insists “The Storm Is Passing”.

Meanwhile people are getting sick and dying.

From the order:

For purposes of Executive Order No. 22, Essential Services include:

1. Personnel identified on pages 5-15 of the Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the United States Department of Homeland Security, available at: https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/CISA Guidance on the Essenti al Critical Infrastructure Workforce Ver i n 2.0 Updated.pd[

2. Health Care and Public Health Operations. This includes, but is not limited to: hospitals; clinics; medical practices and services; mental health and substance abuse services; dental offices; pharmacies; public health entities, including those that compile, model, analyze, and communicate public health information; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, medical device and equipment, and biotechnology companies (including operations, research and development, manufacture, and supply chain components); organizations collecting blood, platelets, plasma, and other necessary materials; obstetricians and gynecologists; eye care centers, including those that sell glasses and contact lenses; home health care services providers; mental health and substance use providers; other health care facilities and suppliers; providers of any related and/or ancillary health care services; entities that transport and dispose of medical materials and remains; manufacturers, technicians, logistics, and warehouse operators, and distributors of medical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical gases, pharmaceuticals, blood, platelets, and plasma products, vaccines, testing materials, laboratory supplies, cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilization supplies, and tissue and paper towel products; veterinary care and all health care services provided to animals. This also includes any medical or administrative personnel necessary to operate those functions in this paragraph. Health Care and Public Health Operations shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of health care, broadly defined. Health Care and Public Health Operations does not include any procedures that would violate Executive Order No. 18, which remains in effect;

3. Human Services Operations. This includes, but is not limited to: government or government-funded human services to the public through state-operated, institutional, or community-based settings; long-term care facilities; day care centers, day care homes, or group day care homes; residential settings and shelters for adults, seniors, children, or people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, or mental illness; transitional facilities; home-based settings to provide services to individuals with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, seniors, adults, or children; field offices that provide and help to determine eligibility for basic needs including food, cash assistance, medical coverage, child care, vocational services, rehabilitation services; developmental centers; adoption agencies; businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals, individuals with physical, intellectual, and/or developmental disabilities, or individuals otherwise in need. Human Services Operations shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of human services, broadly defined;

4. Essential Infrastructure Operations. This includes, but is not limited to: food production, distribution, and sale; construction-related services, including, but not limited to, construction required in response to this public health emergency, hospital construction, construction of long-term care facilities, public works construction, school construction, construction related to Essential Activity or Essential Services, and housing construction; building management and maintenance; landscape management; airport operations; operation and maintenance of utilities, including water, sewer, and gas; electrical services, including power generation, distribution, and production of raw materials; distribution centers; oil and biofuel refining; services related to roads, highways, railroads, ports, and public transportation; cybersecurity operations; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection, removal, and processing; and internet, video, and telecommunications systems and services, including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services. Essential Infrastructure Operations shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to essential infrastructure, broadly defined;

5. Essential Government Functions. This includes, but is not limited to: first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, and those supporting 911 and emergency services; legislators and legislative branch officials and employees, as determined by the Legislative Branch; judges, judicial branch employees, court personnel, jurors, and grand jurors, as determined by the Judicial Branch; law enforcement personnel; corrections and community supervision personnel; hazardous materials responders; election officials and operations; child protection and child welfare personnel; housing and shelter personnel; park personnel that provide admission, maintenance, and operation of park facilities that provide outdoor recreation; military; and other governmental employees working for or to support Essential Activity or Essential Services. Essential Government Functions also means all services provided by the State, the political subdivisions of the State, and boards, commissions, or agencies of government needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies or to provide for or support the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Essential Government Functions also includes contractors performing or supporting such functions. Each branch of government and government entity shall determine its Essential Government Functions and ensure a plan is in place for the performance of these functions. This paragraph does not apply to the United States government; provided, however, that any employee, official, or contractor ofthe United States government shall not be restricted from performing their functions under law;

6. Food and Medicine Stores. This includes, but is not limited to: stores that sell groceries and medicine; grocery stores; pharmacies; certified farmers’ markets; farm and produce stands; supermarkets; convenience stores; and other establishments engaged in the retail sale o f groceries, canned food, dry goods, frozen foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, prepared food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products); and the supply chain and administrative support operations for Food and Medicine Stores. Food and Medicine Stores also includes stores that sell groceries or medicine, including medication not requiring a medical prescription, and also that sell other non-grocery products and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activity, and Essential Services;

7. Food and Beverage Production and Agriculture. This includes, but is not limited to: food and beverage manufacturing, production, processing, and cultivation, including farming, livestock, fishing, baking, and other agricultural production, including cultivation, marketing, production, and distribution of animals and goods for consumption; and businesses that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for animals, including animal shelters, rescues, shelters, kennels, and adoption facilities;

8. Organizations that Provide Charitable and Social Services. This includes, but is not limited to: businesses and religious and secular nonprofit organizations, including food banks, when providing food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or individuals otherwise in need, individuals who need assistance as a result of this emergency, or persons with disabilities;

9. Religious and Ceremonial Functions. This includes, but is not limited to: religious facilities, entities, groups, personnel, services, rites, and gatherings, including weddings and funerals, provided that the Health Guidelines set forth in Executive Order No. 22 are followed to the greatest extent practicable;

10. Media. This includes, but is not limited to: newspapers, books, television, radio, publishing, and other media services and related supply chain operations;

11. Gas Stations and Businesses Needed for Transportation. This includes, but is not limited to: gas stations, travel centers, and truck stops; automotive suppliers, manufacturers, repair services, and related facilities; roadside assistance operations; farm and construction equipment related services; boat repair services; bicycle shops; and related facilities;

12. Financial Institutions and Insurance Entities. This includes, but is not limited to: banks, currency exchanges, consumer lenders, including but not limited to payday lenders, pawnbrokers, consumer installment lenders, sales finance lenders, credit unions, appraisers, title companies, financial markets, trading and futures exchanges, affiliates o f financial institutions, entities that issue bonds, related financial institutions, institutions selling financial products, insurance companies, underwriters, insurance agents, insurance brokers, and related insurance claims and agency services;

13. Hardware and Supply Stores. This includes, but is not limited to: Hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating materials;

14.Critical Trades. This includes, but is not limited to: building and construction tradesmen and tradeswomen and other trades, including, but not limited to, plumbers, electricians, exterminators and pest control, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other manufacturing, distribution, retail or service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activity, and Essential Services, including electronic security and life safety services to assist with fire prevention and response, security, and emergency management and response;

Mail, Post, Shipping, Logistics, Delivery, and Pick-up Services. This includes, but is not limited to: post offices and other businesses that provide shipping and delivery services and businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, goods, vehicles, or services to end users or through commercial channels;

Educational Institutions. This includes, but is not limited to: public and private pre- K schools, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities for purposes of facilitating distance learning, providing food or shelter, performing critical research, or performing essential functions, provided that the Health Guidelines set forth in Executive Order No. 22 are followed to the greatest extent practicable. Schools providing food services to students or members of the public shall provide the food on a carry-out basis only and shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, consistent with Executive Order Nos. 17 and 21;

15.

16.

17. Laundry Services. This includes, but is not limited to: laundromats, dry cleaners, industrial laundry services, and laundry service providers;

18. Restaurants for Off-Premises Consumption. This includes, but is not limited to: restaurants, bars, or other similar food or drink establishments that prepare and serve food, but only for consumption off-premises, consistent with Executive Order Nos. 17 and 21. Entities providing food services to members of the public shall provide the food on a carry-out basis only and shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided or at any other gathering site. This paragraph is consistent with and does not supersede Executive Order Nos. 17 and 21;

19. Supplies to Work from Home. This includes, but is not limited to: businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply products necessary for persons to work from home or engage in distance learning;

20. Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations. This includes, but is not limited to: businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other Essential Services with the support or materials necessary to operate, including computers; audio and video electronics; household appliances; IT and telecommunication equipment; hardware; paint; flat glass; electrical, plumbing, and heating material; sanitary equipment; personal hygiene products; food and food additives, ingredients, and components; medical and orthopedic equipment; optics and photography equipment; diagnostics, food, andbeverages, chemicals, soaps, and detergent; and firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security;

Transportation. This includes, but is not limited to: airlines, taxis, transportation network providers (such as Uber and Lyft), vehicle rental services, paratransit, marinas, docks, boat storage, and other private, public, and commercial transportation and logistics providers necessary for Essential Activity or Essential Services under Executive Order No. 22;

Home-based Care and Services. This includes, but is not limited to: home-based care for adults, seniors, children, or persons with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, or mental illness; and caregivers, including nannies, who may travel to a home to provide care or other in-home services, including meal delivery;

Residential Facilities and Shelters. This includes, but is not limited to: Residential facilities and shelters for adults, seniors, children, pets, or persons with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, or mental illness;

Professional Services. This includes, but is not limited to: legal services, accounting services, msurance services, or real estate services (including appraisal and title services);

Manufacturing, Distribution and Supply Chain for Critical Products and Industries. This includes, but is not limited to: manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, health care, chemicals, sanitization, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture and agricultural products, food and beverage, household consumer products, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, mining, construction, defense and national defense, and communications, as well as products used by or component parts of other Essential Services;

26. Hotels and Motels. This includes, but is not limited to: hotels, motels, lodges, dormitories, and short-term rentals, to the extent used for lodging and delivery or carry- out food and beverage services;

27. Funeral Services. This includes, but is not limited to: funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial, cemetery, and related services;

28. Any business related to Essential Activity, as defined in Executive Order No. 22, including any outdoor recreation area, park, site, or trail that provides opportunities for outdoor recreation while maintaining adherence to the Health Guidelines;

29. Any other business or organization that operates at all times with ten (10) or fewer persons accessing the premises of the business or organization at a time, including

employees, customers, and other visitors; provided, that the premises allows for operation within the Health Guidelines and that such Health Guidelines are followed at all times; or

30. The minimum necessary activities required to maintain any business or organization, whether otherwise essential or not, including:

  1. Maintaining the value of the business’s or organization’s inventory;
  2. Preserving the condition of the business’s or organization’s physical plant andequipment, livestock, or other assets;
  3. Ensuring the security ofthe business or organization;
  4. Processing the business’s or organization’s mail, payroll, and employeebenefits;
  5. Facilitating employees o f the business or organization being able to continue towork remotely from their residences; or
  6. Conducting any functions related to these activities.