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VIRUS OUTBREAK-TENNESSEE

Tennessee reports 1st death of state inmate in outbreak

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee officials have reported the first death of a state inmate who tested positive for the coronavirus. The state Department of Correction said Tuesday that the 67-year-old man who was an inmate at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was taken to the hospital on April 25, tested positive for COVID-19 there and died Monday. The department says the exact cause of death is awaiting the medical examiner's determination. Officials say six Tennessee inmates who tested positive are hospitalized, including one in serious condition. In recent mass testing, nearly 1,300 inmates — about half of all inmates — and 50 staffers tested positive at the Trousdale facility.

VOUCHER LAWSUIT-TENNESSEE

Lee encouraging voucher applications despite court order

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Lee says the state will continue to accept applications for a contentious school voucher program despite a Tennessee judge’s recent order deeming the law unconstitutional. Lee's announcement on Tuesday came a day after a judge deemed the voucher law “unconstitutional, unlawful and unenforceable.” Lee said he is appealing the judge's decision. According to the law, eligible Tennessee families would be allowed to use up to $7,300 in public tax dollars on private schooling tuition and other preapproved expenses. Applications are currently being accepted until Thursday.

AP-TN-VOUCHER LAWSUIT-TENNESSEE

Judge rules Tennessee's voucher law is unconstitutional

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee judge has ruled that the state’s much-debated school voucher program is illegal and cannot be implemented despite education officials receiving thousands of applications from parents hoping to use public tax dollars on private schooling tuition. Davidson County Chancellor Anne C. Martin said in her Monday order that the voucher law, which Gov. Bill Lee signed into effect last year, violated the Tennessee constitution’s “home rule.” Lee’s administration had backed the legislation during his first year as governor, gaining just narrow support from the GOP-controlled Statehouse and strong opposition from Democratic members and public education advocates

EXECUTION-TENNESSEE

Another Tennessee inmate seeks execution delay amid virus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Another death row inmate in Tennessee is seeking a delay in his execution date this year due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Attorneys for Harold Nichols last week asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to reschedule his Aug. 4 execution. The filing says the COVID-19 health crisis creates a dangerous environment for carrying out an execution and prevents necessary work and preparation to apply for clemency. The state Supreme Court previously delayed inmate Oscar Smith’s execution from June to February due to the coronavirus. Byron Black has also requested that the state Supreme Court reschedule his Oct. 8 execution.

BEAR SHOOTING

Tennessee Wildlife Agency investigating bear shooting

DUFF, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is trying to determine who shot and killed a black bear at a Campbell County garbage facility. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports wildlife officers responded to a call about the bear on Friday. The dead bear was a male, weighing approximately 400 pounds, that had been shot with a large caliber firearm. Agency spokesman Matt Cameron tells the paper that the garbage facility has had up to 13 bears feeding on garbage in the past. An electric fence and new chain link fence were installed to try to keep the bears out, but they regained access after someone pulled off the main gate.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-VANDERBILT

Vanderbilt finding ways to reuse masks, repurpose valets

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt University Medical Center had to scramble for personal protective equipment even before the coronavirus hit. That's because the deadly March 3 tornado that tore through Tennessee took out its distribution center. Robin Adkins is a nurse who consults with Vanderbilt. She says the hospital got distribution somewhere else, then COVID-19 created a nationwide shortage of many items, including N95 masks. According to the hospital, it has now started using hydrogen peroxide vapor to sterilize masks, allowing them to be reused up to 10 times. Adkins says the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred “a lot of out-of-the-box thinking” that she hopes will lead to important innovations.