Commissioner Lisa Piercey Leaving Department of Health for Private Sector Role

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey is stepping down from her role as the head of the state agency.

According to a release from Governor Bill Lee’s office, Piercey is accepting a role in the private sector. Her last day in the position will be May 31.

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Department of Health Appoints Jennifer Putnam as Assistant Commissioner of Health Licensure and Regulation

The Tennessee Department of Health recently announced in a press release that Jennifer Putnam has been appointed assistant commissioner of Health Licensure and Regulation (HLR) for the department.

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Oral Antiviral Therapeutics to Combat COVID-19 More Available in Tennessee

pharmacy

The two oral antiviral therapeutics developed by pharmaceutical companies Merck and Pfizer to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 are readily available to patients in Tennessee as a part of an increased bi-weekly allocation program.

“This increase in allocations is something we have been anticipating for weeks,” Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP said in a statement. “Our goal has always been to increase access to these treatments by onboarding more pharmacies to maximize access to patients. We have seen a steady increase in allocations to the state and know many pharmacies and providers are eager to offer this treatment to help mitigate COVID-19 disease progression for those at risk of a severe outcome.”

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Federal Judge Denies Fired Tennessee Department of Health Official Michelle Fiscus’ Request for Monetary Damages

U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw this month said that Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) Commissioner Lisa Piercey and TDOH Chief Medical Officer Tim Jones have qualified immunity against claims from former TDOH official Michelle Fiscus. Qualified immunity protects a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official violated a plaintiff’s rights.

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Tennessee Receives Oral Antiviral COVID-19 Treatments, But No Comirnaty

Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) officials this week announced they have received shipments of the Merck and Pfizer oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19. “The Tennessee Department of Health coordinated a distribution plan of molnupiravir and Paxlovid with Walmart pharmacies across the state,” according to a TDH press release.

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FDA-Approved COVID-19 Vaccine Comirnaty’s Availability in Tennessee Unclear

A Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) official did not say Friday whether his agency currently offers the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) fully approved COVID-19 vaccine, which the manufacturer, Pfizer, calls Comirnaty. TDOH officials did, however, comment on the matter in October.

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Williamson County Schools Offers No Update After First Day of Forced Masking

Williamson County Schools are not talking after the first day in which students were required to wear masks, offering no insight into whether the newly-imposed mandate worked as planned. 

Friday, Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw ruled Williamson County Schools could force students to wear masks, temporarily halting an executive order by Gov. Bill Lee (R) that previously made masks optional. 

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Crom Carmichael Weighs in on Tennessee Department of Health’s Decision to Not Offer Monoclonal Antibodies to Fully Vaccinated People

Wednesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Crom Carmichael in studio to discuss
Tennessee’s Department of Health’s decision to not offer monoclonal antibodies to COVID-19 vaccinated persons.

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Tennessee Department of Health Says Vaccinated Not Recommended for Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

Tennessee Department of Health officials said this week that only the unvaccinated should take monoclonal antibody treatments. Monoclonal antibodies, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website, are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses. Houston Methodist said monoclonal antibody infusion treats COVID-19 and can help prevent hospitalizations, “reduce viral loads and lessen symptom severity.”

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Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee’s Grant Henry Talks Steve Cohen’s Texas Abortion Law Comments and the Lawsuit of Dr. Michelle Fiscus

Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed AMF’s Grant Henry to the studio to weigh in on Steve Cohen’s recent comments regarding Texas abortion law and the continuation of Dr. Michelle Fiscus’s lawsuit.

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Leahy and Ogles Discuss Former Tennessee Health Official Michelle Fiscus’ Dog Muzzle Story

Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed AMF’s Grant Henry and Mayor Andy Ogles in studio to discuss the strange claims made by former Tennessee health official Michael Fiscus.

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Tennessee Commissioner of Health Says All Pediatric Hospitals Will Fill with COVID Patients

Despite the fact that only 23 people under the age of 20 are currently hospitalized in the state of Tennessee with COVID-19, the state’s health director is scaremongering, telling reporters that all of the pediatric hospitals in the state will soon be full. 

Dr. Lisa Piercey said Thursday that every children’s hospital in the state will be full as children contract the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

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Tennessee Department of Health Refuses to Discuss Commissioner Lisa Piercey’s Trip to Greece

Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) Commissioner Lisa Piercey took a vacation to Greece this month, but department officials on Friday refused to answer questions about the precautions she took to protect herself against COVID-19. The Tennessee Star specifically asked the department the following questions Friday:

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Tennessee’s Fired Immunization Chief Claims ‘White, Male, Rural Conservatives’ Refuse Vaccine, Willing to Risk Others’ Lives Out of Spite for Left

Tennessee’s former leading vaccine official, Michelle Fiscus, said that white, male, rural conservatives refuse the COVID-19 vaccine and are willing to risk the lives of others and themselves out of spite for the left. The former Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) Vaccine and Preventable Diseases and Immunization Program (VPDIP) Director made these statements during an interview with PBS.

“But I think the other thing in Tennessee, and I think in a lot of our Southern states that’s happening, is this ideology that if you get this vaccine, you’re somehow placating to the left part of the political spectrum,” said Fiscus. “And so what we’re actually seeing is our most hesitant population in Tennessee is the white, male, rural conservatives, and that they are stating that they’re not going to get the vaccine really out of spite and are willing to put their own lives and the lives of the people that they love at risk because they feel that if they get the vaccine, then they have placated the left or done what the Biden Administration wants them to do.”

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Andy Ogles Weighs in on Tennessee Department of Health Mature Minor Doctrine and Parental Consent

Young boy, sitting on steps with mask on

Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Mayor Andy Ogles in studio to weigh in on the push for COVID vaccines for minors, parental consent, and the confusion surrounding the mature minor doctrine.

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Host Leahy Questions Whether Gov. Lee Is Aware of His State’s Own Health Policy on the Mature Minor Doctrine

Gov. Bill Lee

  Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy discussed the firing of vaccine chief, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, and Governor Lee’s statement, which exposed his…

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State Senator Says Tennessee Children Could Still Get COVID-19 Vaccine Without Parental Consent, but Only in Rare Circumstances

State Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) on Friday accused the media of trying to drive a wedge between him and Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH) Commissioner Lisa Piercey when it comes to giving the COVID-19 vaccine to children. Roberts co-chairs the legislature’s Joint Government Operations Committee. He voiced concerns this week about state officials administering the vaccine to children without parental consent. Roberts said Thursday that he and Piercey agreed that administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children — without parental consent — violates TDOH policy.

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State Sen. Kerry Roberts Clears Up Misinformation About COVID-19 Vaccinations for Children in Tennessee

Tennessee State Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), who co-chairs the legislature’s Joint Government Operations Committee, this week said he had to clear up misinformation about administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children throughout the state. Roberts said in an emailed statement that he and certain other committee members worried Tennessee had marketed the vaccine to minors and administered it without parental consent.

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Nashville Nursing Home Loses License over Health Code Violations

Azalea Trace Assisted Living

After multiple complaints and health code violations, the Tennessee Department of Health (DOH) has temporarily revoked the license of Azalea Trace Assisted Living in Nashville.

That order said the nursing facility was closed to new patients as of February 1, 2021, while the DOH investigates and eventually hands down a punishment. 

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Tennessee Department of Health Reportedly Fired Chief Vaccination Official for Months of Inappropriate Behavior – Not for Sharing Mature Minor Doctrine

Contrary to current claims, the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) reportedly fired its previous Vaccine-Preventable and Infectious Diseases State Medical Director Dr. Michelle Fiscus due to months of unprofessional behavior and poor job performance. TDH Chief Medical Officer Tim Jones detailed issues with Fiscus at length in a recommendation for termination email to TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey. 

Although Fiscus claims that she was fired for informing the public about the mature minor doctrine, TDH offered a laundry list of the issues Fiscus has reportedly caused. According to their records, Fiscus consistently engaged in inappropriate behaviors such as mistreating her colleagues and ignoring superiors. Her behavior reportedly caused two senior leaders to resign. She’d also been pushing TDH over the last three months to award funds to her nonprofit organization – though it had no staff or other major funds.

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Tennessee Fires Top Vaccine Official

The state of Tennessee Department of Heath on Monday fired one of the organization’s top vaccination officials, Dr. Michelle Fiscus.

Fiscus, the fired employee and medical director for vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization programs, claims she was blamed after the department faced heavy backlash from Tennessee state lawmakers over the department’s push to get children vaccinated.

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Tennessee Department of Health Says No Word from White House on Delta Variant Response Teams

Joe Biden speaking on vaccinations

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) informed The Tennessee Star that the White House hasn’t contacted them about the Delta variant response teams.

The Biden Administration announced in a press briefing last week that it would be launching these response teams due to the expectation of a surge in the COVID-19 Delta variant, which they claim is more infectious and dangerous. White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients explained that these response teams would have five focuses: increase testing and contact tracing; provide therapeutics for the infected; deploy federal personnel for vaccination, testing, and therapeutics; assist with public health response work like epidemiology, data analysis, field investigations; and increase vaccinations through campaigns.

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COVID Vaccine Available for All Tennessee Adults on April 5

According to Gov. Bill Lee (R), all people over age 16 will be eligible to receive the coveted COVID-19 vaccine no later than April 5.

“The federal government has asked us to make sure every adult can receive access by May 1, and Tennessee will beat that deadline,” Lee said in a Monday press conference. 

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Certain Prisoners Now Front of Line for COVID Vaccinations Following Reports of Panel Saying It Would be ‘PR Nightmare’

Select Tennessee prisoners will now receive COVID-19 vaccinations, following a report on officials’ apparent hesitancy to prioritize them initially. The state progressed to Phase 1C of its vaccination plan earlier this week, which extends vaccines to those prisoners who are 65 and older or have eligible health conditions. Others now eligible to receive the vaccine are individuals 16 years old and older that have diabetes, Down syndrome, or any progressive neuromuscular diseases, or live in households with pregnant women.

The announcement to vaccinate these prisoners came shortly after it was discovered that officials determining the order of vaccine priority groups were hesitant to prioritize prisoners due to the optics of placing them ahead of other citizens. The Pandemic Vaccine Planning Stakeholder group, an advisory panel that assists in vaccine rollout decisions and communication with citizens across the state, reportedly stated during one of its meetings that prioritizing prisoners could prove a public relations “nightmare” and, possibly, a state liability. The Associated Press discovered these remarks in an open records request for the group’s meeting notes late last week.

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Tennessee Reports More Fatalities as Inclement Weather Continues into the Weekend

Tennessee remained at a Level Three State of Emergency Friday night as people in certain counties had no power during extreme winter temperatures, and officials reported more weather-related fatalities. In an emailed press release Friday, officials with the Tennessee Department of Health confirmed two weather-related deaths in Shelby County. TDH officials had previously reported two other fatalities in the county as well one fatality each in Maury, Williamson, Dickson, and Overton counties, bringing the total number of fatalities this week to eight.

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Second Round of Winter Weather Keeps Parts of Tennessee Shut Down

Tennessee Department of Health officials reported Wednesday that four people in the state died due to this week’s inclement weather. As of Wednesday, Tennessee officials had recorded two fatalities this week in Shelby County, one in Maury County, and another in Williamson County, according to TDH officials, in an email.

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Tennessee Department of Health Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Website

In order to register for the COVID-19 vaccine, personal information such as full name, date of birth, address, email, phone number, gender, race, and ethnicity will be required. These details are requested via the questionnaire on an updated COVID-19 vaccine registration website recently launched by the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH).

Users are also asked to confirm if they work or volunteer in certain environments, live with certain high-risk conditions, suffered past allergic reactions to any substance, received passive antibody therapy for COVID-19 in the last 90 days or any vaccinations in the previous two weeks, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or were currently or previously sick with COVID-19.

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Tennessee Widens Groups Available to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine Even as Distribution Lags for Seniors

Tennessee has added people living in households with medically fragile children to Phase 1c of the state’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, but doses remain extremely limited for seniors.

The Tennessee Department of Health announced the updated distribution plan Friday.

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Tennessee Health Officials Warn of COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) warned individuals about scammers attempting to sell COVID-19 vaccines or spots on the vaccine wait list. The messaging was addressed to all Tennesseans, but heavily emphasized relaying the warning to the elderly.

TDH listed several common tactics they’d learned were being solicited by door-to-door scammers. These scams encouraged individuals to issue a payment in order to obtain the vaccine, placement on a vaccine priority list, and early access to the vaccine.

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Tennessee Reports 90 Percent Decrease in Flu Cases Between Last Weeks of 2019 and 2020; Yet COVID Cases Increased

Despite COVID-19 cases spiking around the same time, Tennessee experienced a marked decrease in flu cases last month. Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) data sets from the last week of 2019 and 2020 revealed a 90 percent decrease in overall flu cases. The end of December registered a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, near the all-time high in the state’s positivity rates.

TDH recorded over 6,700 flu cases in the final week of 2019, as compared to just over 600 during the last week of 2020. Last month, the percentage of individuals with flu-like illnesses visiting the reporting healthcare sites was exactly 2 percent; the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) baseline for Tennessee sits at around 3 percent. According to the CDC, two or more consecutive weeks that fall under 2 percent reporting constitutes a “non-influenza week.”

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Teachers and Educational Staff Moved Up into First Phase of Vaccine Priority List

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) announced Wednesday that it would be moving teachers and educational staff up on the vaccine priority list. TDH estimated that teachers and educational staff may receive vaccines starting around February or March of 2021.

This updated plan for vaccine distribution occurs in months-long waves: Phases 1a1, 1a2, 1b, 1c, 2a/b, and 3. Teachers and educational staff fall into Phase 1b. The last several phases don’t have projected dates as of yet. Those who qualify solely through age-based criteria will be eligible to receive their vaccine beginning in Phase 1a2, starting with those over 75 years old.

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NAACP Leader Criticizes Tennessee for Allocating Only Five Percent of Coronavirus Vaccine for Minorities

The Tennessee Department of Health is setting aside a portion of its COVID-19 vaccines for communities that are poorer and have more people of color, but one minority leader says that is not good enough.

After this current first phase, the state will reserve 5 percent of the vaccine for areas that are poorer and have higher numbers of minorities, CBS News reported.

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Governor Lee Extends State of Emergency Through End of Year

Governor Bill Lee has officially extended the state of emergency for the remainder of 2020.
The executive order followed Lee’s own quarantine due to exposure from the coronavirus. The extension of the order means that Tennessee will receive further federal funding, mayors can continue to implement their own guidelines, and government officials can continue to meet virtually.

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Tennessee Officials Announce New Vaccination Plan, COVID-19 Strategies

Tennessee Department of Health officials this week announced the state’s infrastructure plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines once they are available.

TDH, coordinating with other state and local agencies, submitted an initial draft of the COVID-19 Vaccination Plan for Tennessee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month.

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Tennessee’s COVID-19 Case Count Rising, Although More Than 30,000 State Residents Have Recovered

  As of Sunday night Tennessee has had a total of 51,431 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 646 deaths. Officials at The Covid Tracking Project reported the latest numbers on their website Sunday night. The website also reported that the virus has hospitalized 2,871 Tennesseans. Exactly 949 of those Tennesseans remain…

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Gov. Lee’s Advisor Who Provided COVID-19 Patient Information to Police, Promoted to COO

The woman behind Tennessee providing COVID-19 patient data to first responders has been promoted.

Brandon O. Gibson, a senior advisor to Gov. Bill Lee, was promoted to the state’s chief operating officer (COO), the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

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Knoxville Opts Out of Controversial Practice of Sharing Personal Data of COVID-19 Patients with Police

The City of Knoxville said Tuesday it will opt-out of sharing the names and addresses of COVID-19 patients with law enforcement following a statewide controversy over the practice.

Mayor Indya Kincannon and Police Chief Eve Thomas said that the Knoxville Police Department will leave a state program that allows law-enforcement officers across Tennessee to access a database of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19.

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Black Lawmakers Want State to Stop Giving Names, Addresses of COVID-19 Patients to Police

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators wants the state to quit giving names and addresses of COVID-19 patients to police.

The caucus made the request to Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Health, WATE reported, citing a press release from Democratic Caucus Chairman Ken Jobe. Lee sent letters to Tennessee police offering to provide personal information to their departments once they’ve entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state.

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Tennessee Providing Names And Addresses of COVID-19 Patients to Law Enforcement, Report Reveals

The Tennessee government is providing the names and addresses of COVID-19 patients to law enforcement agencies and other first responders, documents obtained by the Associated Press reveal.

According to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) obtained by the outlet, the Tennessee Department of Health is “disclosing” the information to the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, which in turn passes the information along to first responders.

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Tennessee has Nearly 10,000 COVID-19 Cases as of Sunday

COVID-19

Nearly 10,000 Tennesseans have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Sunday night, according to The COVID Tracking Project’s website.

Updated numbers showed 9,667 Tennesseans tested positive for COVID-19 since it broke out, while the virus had hospitalized 828 state residents. COVID-19 had claimed the lives of 181 Tennesseans as of Sunday, according to The COVID Tracking Project’s website.

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Tennessee Department of Health Not Providing Number of Current COVID-19 Hospitalizations

The Tennessee Department of Health said 633 residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, but that figure is a cumulative – not current – number.

“This number indicates the number of patients that were ever hospitalized during their illness, it does not indicate the number of patients currently hospitalized,” the Department of Health notes in its daily COVID-19 briefing.

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Vast Majority of Tennesseans who Test for COVID-19 Come Back Negative

As of Sunday night, more than 43,000 Tennessee residents tested negative for COVID-19, according to the Tennessee Department of Health’s website.

These numbers run in stark contrast to media accounts that focus only on how many people tested positive for the coronavirus.

Lab work for more than 7,500 people in Davidson County who got tested came back negative. More than 1,200 people tested negative in Hamilton County, while nearly 2,200 Knox County residents tested negative. Meanwhile, nearly 6,000 people tested negative for the coronavirus in Shelby County, according to the TDH’s website.

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