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Mark Lee, Alleged Student-Harassing Overton County Teacher, Sues Accusers

If you’ve been follering us for any amount of time you’ve likely seen us talk about OVERTON COUNTY teacher Mark Lee, who taught at Livingston Academy until his recent 90-day suspension without pay and eventual transfer – which was supposedly tied to years worth of sexual harassment allegations by multiple students stretching back to 2003. (He’s tenured, so he’s likely back on payroll now)

Here’s our interview with 2 of the girls and their mothers:

It was also discussed at an Overton County school board meeting, during which multiple parents expressed their disgust that the school board had done little to protect the girls, and in fact had plans to transfer Lee to an elementary school until people hollered about it – yes seriously.

There was also talk of him being placed at an Alternative School, which is almost worse because that’s often where the most vulnerable students end up.

The District Attorney Bryan Dunavant, who we spoke with, says he didn’t bring charges against Lee because he had no proof of physical touching (although one of the girls says he rubbed his head on her stomach). He also told us he “wouldn’t want his daughter in Lee’s class.

A mother of another one of the alleged sexual harassment victims of the LIVINGSTON ACADEMY teacher (Mark Lee) in OVERTON COUNTY Says she spoke up since 2017, nobody listened. Multiple girls signed sworn affidavits on that occasion, including a cop’s daughter.

Lee is now suing the families and those who have stood up for them for “damages arising out of the defendants’ pattern of intentional, malicious, tortious false and defamatory statements impugning the plaintiffs’ character and reputation and published to the world on social media” as well as “invasion of privacy”.

This guy has some nerve.

HERE IS THE LAWSUIT if you’d like to read it. It includes the posts below, which it cites as defamation.

As a reminder, the director of schools suspended him for 90 days related to all of this.

If you or anyone you know has stories about Lee, or witnessed any of his behavior, feel free to holler at us on social media or at thetnholler@gmail.com – and follow The Cookeville Holler for developments

Bill Lee’s COVID19 Response Failure

Our Governor’s weak, feckless response to COVID19 is costing lives. He can’t name a single expert that supports his decision to reopen schools. They don’t have the testing ability to follow CDC guidelines, yet Lee says they are “safely” reopening schools (“to the degree that it’s possible”). His administration has dragged its feet with regard to transparency throughout this crisis, and lab turnaround times are still severely lagging, putting more lives at risk.

And yet the special session called for the week of August 10th will be focusing on weakening worker protections within the context of COVID19 and further criminalizing the protesters who have been occupying the plaza outside the State Capitol. They will also be strategizing ways to expand telehealth, which is the one positive aspect of the upcoming special session.

Watch the videos below to see just where our Governor’s priorities lie:

“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

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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 ‬

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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. Those who are struggling to cover the cost of their healthcare and are looking for help with this may want to consider using a crowdfunding platform online – check this site – in order to generate the necessary funds.

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. It’s understandable that supplies will run low with many people needing new masks frequently, however, there should be no reason as to why they can’t try and stock up on as much PPE as possible. Protective masks are being produced and provided in many different places now, for example, you can find some here or other places online. There should be no reason for such low supplies.
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.