Gov. Lee Extends State of Emergency to Aug. 29, 2020

New executive orders extend key provisions from previous orders
Monday, June 29, 2020 | 02:00pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee today signed Executive Order No. 50 to extend the State of Emergency related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to August 29, 2020. The order allows the continued suspension of various laws and regulations and other measures in these orders to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19 through regulatory flexibility, promoting social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings, and protecting vulnerable populations.

Gov. Lee also signed Executive Order Nos. 51 and 52, which extend provisions that allow for electronic government meetings subject to transparency safeguards and remote notarization and witnessing of documents, respectively, to August 29, 2020.

Executive Order No. 50

Executive Order No. 50 extends previous provisions that:

  • Urge Tennesseans to continue limiting activity and staying home where possible, as well as following health guidelines and maintaining social distancing;
  • Urge persons to wear a cloth face covering in places where in close proximity to others;
  • Urge employers to allow or require remote work/telework if possible;
  • Provide that persons with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are required to stay at home, and that employers may not require or allow employees with COVID-19 to work;
  • Limit social and recreational gatherings of 50 or more persons, unless adequate social distancing can be maintained (the 6 counties with locally run county health departments may issue different directives on gatherings)
    • This does not apply to places of worship, for which there are guidelines for safe operation of worship services and gatherings, though places of worship are urged to continue virtual or online services where possible;
    • This does not apply to weddings, funerals, and related events, but encourages postponement of large-gathering components of such events;
  • Limit contact sports with a requirement or substantial likelihood of routine close contact
    • This does not apply to collegiate or professional sports conducted under the rules or guidelines of their respective governing bodies and does not prohibit training or otherwise practicing the elements of such sports that do not involve close contact with persons;
  • Limit nursing home and long-term-care facility visitation, while providing a framework for safe, limited visitation set forth in Executive Order No. 49, and continue the closure of senior centers;
  • Provide that employers and businesses are expected to comply with the Governor’s Economic Recovery Group Guidelines (e.g., Tennessee Pledge) for operating safely, as well as general health guidelines from the CDC and other government entities (the 6 counties with locally run county health departments have authority to issue different directives on businesses/venues);
  • Provide that bars may only serve customers seated at appropriately spaced tables and must follow the Economic Recovery Group Guidelines (e.g., Tennessee Pledge) for restaurants (the 6 counties with locally run county health departments have authority to issue different directives on businesses/venues);
  • Urge persons and businesses to take special care to protect vulnerable populations, including by offering delivery or special shopping hours where possible;
  • Allow take-out and delivery alcohol sales by restaurants and limited-service restaurants to continue to encourage customers to utilize take-out or delivery options;
  • Allow broad access to telehealth services;
  • Increase opportunities for people to easily join the healthcare workforce;
  • Provide easier access to unemployment benefits;
  • Ensure supply chain protections;
  • Extend deadlines and suspend certain in-person continuing education or inspection requirements to avoid unnecessary person-to-person contact; and
  • Increase opportunities to work remotely where appropriate.

A more complete list of measures extended beyond June 30 to promote regulatory flexibility, facilitate social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings, and support supply chains and health care providers includes:

  • Health care licenses, certificates, and registrations are extended until August 31, 2020, and the number of health care professionals and facilities that are eligible for an extension is increased.
  • Degree holders in science fields can work as laboratory personnel under supervision. Allows more qualified graduates to work in medical laboratories.
  • Testing for COVID-19 can occur at more medical laboratory facilities. Allows for more widespread testing related to COVID-19.
  • Driver licenses and photo ID renewal deadlines are further extended. CDL license types remain extended until June 30, 2020; other types are extended until November 15, 2020. More people qualify for an extension.
  • Deadlines for payments to reinstate driver licenses are further extended. More people qualify for an extension.
  • Enhanced handgun carry permits are further extended through November 15, 2020. More people qualify for an extension.
  • Deadlines for persons with interlock ignition devices are further suspended. More people qualify for an extension.
  • Professional educational and training deadlines administered by the Department of Commerce and Insurance may be extended. The Department now has the authority to extend testing deadlines for regulated professions.
  • Activation of Tennessee Emergency Management Plan.
  • Out-of-state health care providers may practice in Tennessee.
  • Prescriptions available in 90-day supply.
  • Increased availability of home health services.
  • Notarization is not required for health care applications.
  • Retired medical professionals can easily reenter the health care workforce.
  • Continuing education requirements are suspended to allow health care professionals to receive such education through electronic means.
  • Laboratory inspections are suspended to allow for immediate COVID-19 testing.
  • Health care licensing inspections and investigations are suspended to increase resources available to fight COVID-19 and to protect public health.
  • Inspections of pain management clinics are suspended.
  • Inspections of health care facilities are suspended.
  • Inspections of medical laboratories are suspended.
  • Inspections of pharmaceutical facilities are suspended.
  • Inspections of veterinary facilities are suspended.
  • Live human patient examinations are suspended for dentistry applicants, and the Board of Dentistry may modify licensing procedures accordingly.
  • Memoranda of Understanding with the Department of Health to obtain confidential personal health information are enforceable emergency orders.
  • Nursing graduates may practice under supervision without examination.
  • Expanding locations for autopsies.
  • Pharmacists can process prescriptions remotely.
  • Each pharmacist can supervise more pharmacy technicians.
  • Medical laboratory directors can monitor facilities remotely.
  • Pre-license, post-degree mental or behavioral health professionals can provide telehealth services under supervision.
  • Medical laboratory personnel can work remotely.
  • Increased number of hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients.
  • Regulations of emergency medical services are suspended to increase services.
  • Temporary quarantine and isolation facilities may be constructed.
  • Size and weight transportation restrictions suspended for emergency supplies.
  • Transportation hours of service restrictions suspended for emergency supplies.
  • Certain criteria for unemployment benefits are suspended to ensure such benefits are available to COVID 19-affected employees.
  • Unemployment information from employers required more quickly to process benefits faster.
  • Child care licensure and assessment requirements are suspended to facilitate continued operation of child care facilities.
  • Examination cycle of financial institutions may be extended.
  • Deadline for TNInvestco annual audited financial statement reports extended until July 31, 2020.
  • Departments may extend deadlines to deposit state funds to protect state employees/customers.
  • Deadline for ethics filings is extended until July 15, 2020.
  • Deadlines for law enforcement training are extended.
  • Free copies of business entity filings available for those using them to seek state or federal disaster relief.
  • Board of Parole may modify procedures to protect public health.
  • Suspends temporary application of safety valve provisions resulting from the temporary decrease in TDOC prisoners.
  • Governor has discretion to utilize National Guard members in connection with TDOC operations if needed.
  • Motor vehicle dealers can record liens with the Secretary of State.
  • Administration of driving tests is suspended.
  • Issuance of REAL-ID is suspended.
  • Tennessee Corrections Institute transfer procedures are adjusted to respond to COVID-19.
  • Tennessee Corrections Institute may flexibly respond to COVID-19 issues.
  • Deadlines for building code and building plan inspections may be extended.
  • Notarization requirements for bonds and certain legal documents are suspended.
  • Deadline for firefighters to complete training may be extended.
  • Deadline for law enforcement and firefighter physical examinations is extended until October 1, 2020.
  • Deadline for peace officers to complete training may be suspended.
  • Annual meeting of the Tennessee Judicial Conference is suspended.
  • Time periods for completing securities registration requirements may be extended.
  • Remote shareholder meetings permitted under certain conditions.
  • Discretionary leave available for state employees affected by COVID-19.
  • Inspections of mental health and substance abuse facilities and services are suspended.
  • Telephone assessments for involuntary commitment cases are permitted.
  • TennCare policies adjusted to prevent coverage disruptions.
  • Limitations on emergency admissions to Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities facilities are suspended.
  • Medication administration certificates may be extended for Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities personnel.
  • Suspending requirements not feasible during COVID-19 pandemic to maintain service levels for persons supported by Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
  • Health insurance carriers encouraged to take steps necessary to maximize access to COVID-19 treatment, screening, and testing.
  • Telemedicine access is expanded.
  • All licensed health care providers can practice telemedicine.
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation may conduct name-based background checks.
  • Deadline to remove expunged records is suspended.

Executive Order No. 51

Executive Order No. 16, as previously extended by Executive Order No. 34, which allows governing bodies to meet electronically regarding essential business as long as they provide electronic access to the public and meet the safeguards established in that order to ensure openness and transparency, is extended through August 29 to ensure that governmental entities are able to carry out essential business in a safe, transparent way without creating large gatherings in a confined space and endangering persons, particularly those at increased risk of suffering severe illness from COVID-19, while determinations of how best to return to safe, in-person governmental meetings remain ongoing.

Executive Order No. 52

Executive Order No. 26, as previously extended by Executive Order No. 37, which allows for remote notarization and witnessing of documents, subject to compliance with certain procedures, is extended through August 29 to ensure that persons, and particularly populations especially vulnerable to COVID-19, including older adults and persons with compromised immune systems or serious chronic medical conditions, can continue to engage in commerce and execute legal documents without requiring in-person contact.

Red Cross Offers 20 Ways to Stay Safe As You Celebrate the Fourth of July

NASHVILLE, Tenn., June 26, 2020 — The Fourth of July is just ahead, a time when people typically enjoy the summer holiday with backyard barbecues, fireworks or water fun. But this year, celebrating Independence Day will be different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The American Red Cross offers safety tips you can follow.

“If your community is reopening, it’s important to know which safety measures to take as you venture out in public,” reported Joel Sullivan, regional executive with American Red Cross of Tennessee. “We have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases once again in Tennessee so it is so important to follow these coronavirus precautions.”

  • Continue to social distance by staying 6 feet away from others, especially if you are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (over age 65 or any age with underlying medical conditions).
  • Continue to wear cloth face coverings in public. Face coverings are most essential when social distancing is difficult.
  • Follow guidelines for your area when it comes to how large gatherings can be. Avoid crowds and mass gatherings.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Stay home if you are sick.


Many public fireworks shows are canceled this summer to avoid holding events where large crowds will gather. If you plan to use your own fireworks, check first if it is legal in your area.

  1. Never give fireworks to small children, and never throw or point a firework toward people, animals, vehicles, structures or flammable materials. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.
  2. Keep a supply of water close by as a precaution.
  3. Make sure the person lighting fireworks always wears eye protection.
  4. Light only one firework at a time and never attempt to relight “a dud.”
  5. Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from children and pets.


Grilling fires spark more than 10,000 home fires on average each year in the U.S. To avoid this:

  • Always supervise a barbecue grill when in use. Don’t add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.
  • Never grill indoors — not in the house, camper, tent or any enclosed area.
  • Make sure everyone, stays away from the grill, including children and pets.
  • Keep the grill away from the house or anything that could catch fire.
  • Use the long-handled tools especially made for cooking on the grill.


Warmer weather means enjoying the water. Be “water smart,” have swimming skills and know how to help others. This includes home pools — where young children are most at risk of drowning — and open water, such as ponds, rivers and lakes — where people are more likely to drown than any other location. With less access to lifeguarded aquatic facilities this summer, some may consider open water environments that are not designated for swimming.

  1. Talk to your children, including older youth and teenagers, about water safety. A variety of resources are available at and
  2. If you choose to take your family to the water, make sure the area is designated for swimming and has lifeguards on duty. Once there, maintain social distancing, both in and out of the water, between you and people who don’t live with you.
  3. Wear face coverings on land, especially when physical distancing is difficult. Do not wear them in the water as it may be difficult to breathe. Don’t share goggles, nose clips, snorkels or other personal items.
  4. Designate a water watcher whose sole responsibility is to supervise people during any in-water activity until the next person takes over.
  5. Kiddie or inflatable pools can be a great way to have fun. Drain the water from the pool and flip it over after swim time is over.

DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross offers a series of free mobile apps to put lifesaving safety information in the palm of your hand. Download these apps by searching for “American Red Cross” in your app store or at

  • The Red Cross Swim App has water safety tips and resources for parents and caregivers along with child-friendly games, videos and quizzes.
  • The Red Cross Emergency App can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hand for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.
  • The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies at your fingertips.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

VC Brigety’s Mantra: Honoring Our Shared Humanity

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

In talking with new Vice-Chancellor Reuben E. Brigety II, the word “dignity” keeps rearing its head in the conversation. On June 17, Brigety was instated as 17th vice-chancellor and president of the University. He acknowledges the difficulty of assuming his tenure in a time of dual crisis. “I’m the first African American president of the University of the South in the worst racial reckoning our country has experienced since 1968, and meanwhile we’re in the middle of a pandemic worse than the country has seen in a century.”

Brigety’s vision for Sewanee living up to its motto Ecce quam bonum, and for fixing what ails the world are both rooted in the same premise: “recognizing and honoring our shared humanity.”

“The pandemic is God awful and real,” Brigety said. “My wife, an ICU physician, has treated nothing but COVID-19 patients in the past several months.” The Brigety’s have lost two family members to the pandemic.

Sewanee’s plan for the return of students calls for a fall semester without breaks, ending at Thanksgiving and with final exams taken remotely. The University will release specifics on social distancing, masks, and other precautions on July 1, Brigety said.

As for sports, though, Brigety conceded, unknowns still hounded the decision process. “Our athletic conference has not yet decided whether or not we will have athletics, and what restrictions we’ll have to put in place to have athletics. We don’t know what our response will be to the decision of the conference.” He championed the value of athletics in “character formation and community cohesion.” “I want us to have sports,” he said, but stressed, “The disease spreads by exhalations, and when you do sports, you breathe a lot, often in close contact.”

The other grand challenge confronting the University likewise mirrors a challenge all colleges and universities face. “The incoming class of 2026 will be the smallest college cohort in two generations and the most diverse college cohort ever,” Brigety said. “Following the financial crisis of 2008, people stopped having babies at the same rate,” he explained. “Those children turn 18 in 2026.”

“You’ll have the same number of institutions competing for a historically smaller and diverse group of young people from 2026 going forward. For us, the question will be what makes us distinctive as well as welcoming and competitive.”

Talking about the challenge of attracting students of color within the context of the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Brigety cited three factors that drove the movement to front and center in the immediate now: the pandemic which kept people “cooped up” giving them more time to pause and reflect; the impossibility of dismissing the mistreatment of people of color given the ubiquity of cell phone cameras; and most important, “the generational change of what’s happening.”

“The young people who are on the streets protesting and who will be in our classrooms this fall are two generations removed from Brown vs. Board of Education. They were raised since kindergarten on Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream speech.’ They’ve never experienced their country legally treating people differently because of their race. They don’t have a frame of reference for rationalizing systematic disparate treatment. They’re not interested in progress. They want things to change now.”

“It’s been incredible to see institutions not historically vociferous against racism standing up in this moment,” Brigety said, pointing to NASCAR and the U.S. Marine Corp banning confederate symbols.

“We need to have honest conversations about the experiences of our fellow Americans and ask ourselves can we and should we be better as a country…Reasonable people of good will can reasonably disagree, but we ought to be united in accepting the fundamental dignity of every human being.”

Bringing this home to Sewanee, Brigety said, “Our first role as a university is creating a space where physical and intellectual dialogue can happen…setting a parameter of values where we hope those dialogues can happen.”

“Sewanee has been doing a lot of this work already.” Brigety highlighted the Roberson Project’s examination of slavery and Jim Crow and the Office of Community Engagement’s efforts to get students involved in the local community and engage the challenges of fellow citizens.

Brigety frequently refers to himself as “Mayor of Sewanee.” Acknowledging he was not elected to this role, Brigety said, “I hope to conduct myself as if I were elected. I’m accountable to the residents for their collective well-being.”

“The most important challenges facing the community are the ones the community thinks are important—parks, the cell phone tower, economic activity, and the currently obvious issues of public safety and health.” He stressed the importance of the community “charting a course together for where it wants our community to be.” Brigety envisions Sewanee as the “Aspen of the South…a place for convening around ideas, culture, art, music, literature, politics, and a variety of different activities in this beautiful space.” To attract cultural diversity Brigety emphasized the importance of “being a place that is welcoming.” He suggested ethnic restaurants, Indian, pan-African fusion, and a bar that alternated between featuring salsa dancing and swing dancing. “This doesn’t mean we’re throwing Southern culture away. We can strengthen the best part of our heritage—who we are physically and emotionally—as we create a welcoming environment to be part of our future together.”

Ending his five-year tenure as dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University, Brigety was under consideration for leadership at a number of institutions. Asked why he chose Sewanee, Brigety said, “Sewanee is a Native American word that means one who is wandering but has found his place. Sewanee found me.” A Southerner, born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla., Brigety was attracted to the University as a Southern liberal arts college founded in the Episcopal tradition. The natural environment appealed to Brigety and his family, all outdoors enthusiasts, and more personally, Brigety who loves riding, praised the “fantastic equestrian center.”

His sons, ages 12 and 15, will attend St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. His wife, Dr. Leelie Selassie, will take a much-needed break from the brutal stress of treating COVID-19 patients. Brigety’s family will arrive at the end of July.

Brigety has already plunged into his job as vice-chancellor and Sewanee mayor. Why Sewanee? “I’m a mission driven person,” he confessed. “This was a place worth coming to.” Embracing the task before him, Brigety said, “I start my approach to life with recognizing and respecting the dignity of the shared humanity of every person.”

Council Takes on Forward Looking Proposals

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The first Sewanee Community Council meeting presided over by new Vice-Chancellor Reuben Brigety saw the council make a commitment to two forward looking proposals raised by council members. At the June 22 meeting, council representative Theresa Shackelford recommended the council “reimagine” the use of the Community Council fund and craft new guidelines for the mission and management of the $10,000 annual sum allocated to the council for grants. Rising to the challenge of the times, representative Paul Schutz asked the council to issue a statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Beginning in 2015, a small fee assessed leaseholders provided the council with $10,000 annually to fund community enhancement grants. “Initially the program was enthusiastically received,” Shackelford said, but more recently, “requests have gone down in number and impact.” Twice the amount in the fund rose to $20,000 before it was dispersed, Shackelford pointed out. She applauded the council’s decision in April to allocate $15,000 for COVID-19 related emergencies.

“The community is at the mercy of the University and Go-Fund-Me type things if they need money, because Sewanee is not incorporated,” Shackelford said. She proposed a portion of the annual award could be saved and invested, “socked away for a rainy day.” Citing possible uses, she mentioned iPads for area children lacking technological resources and the Sewanee Community Center.

The council voted to form a committee to investigate new uses and a new direction for the Community Council Funding Project monies.

In requesting the council issue a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Schutz cited the recent march and testimonies of “awkwardness and discomfort” by students, faculty, and staff of color. “Anything we can do to make people feel welcome here is well worth doing,” Schutz said. Schutz provided the council with a proposed statement.

“I confirm every bullet point,” said council representative Cindy Potter, “but I’m worried about our Sewanee police who have been exceptional.” Council member Mary Priestley agreed, “I don’t want to draw a line between the council and the Sewanee police.”

The council will collaborate on drafting a solidarity proposal and vote on approval remotely.

Addressing a more mundane circumstance, Parks Committee chair Stephen Burnett revisited the need for restroom facilities in the vicinity of Elliot Park. Burnett previously proposed facilities at the soon-to-open Wellness Center be made available. He was told “the Wellness Center was not suitable…for little children.”

Provost Nancy Berner explained, “From the outset the Wellness Center was targeted for college students.” The building will house the Outing Program, counselors, a workout room and other student-oriented initiatives. Berner suggested if the Center was not being fully utilized, it was possible others would have access.

“The ability to relieve yourself is a public health issue. It’s a dignity issue,” Brigety said. He proposed porta-potties as a temporary solution when Elliot Park reopened and evaluating the level of need prerequisite to a more permanent solution.

Looking back, Shackelford suggested the council draft a resolution thanking former Vice Chancellor John McCardell who presided over the council for the past 10 years. “McCardell made changes for the better,” Shackelford stressed. “I loved that you could disagree with him and he didn’t take it personally.” A committee will form to draft a resolution for the council to review.

Six council seats will come open for election in November. Shackelford will serve as election officer coordinating media announcements about open seats and how to become a candidate. Shackelford, an at large representative, will not seek reelection.

The council welcomed new council member Sarah Hess, a rising middler at the School of Theology.

The council meets next on Sept. 14.

Editor’s Note: Please see page 7 of this issue for the Sewanee Community Council Statement of Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement, which was recently approved.

Sewanee Community Council Statement of Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement June 2020

As the nation looks on with shock and horror at the continued extrajudicial killings of unarmed black men and women in the United States, we, the members of the Sewanee Community Council, wish to affirm our support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and to express our dedication to ending systemic racism by whatever means we have at our disposal.

We hereby affirm the following:

We reject racism and xenophobia in all their forms;

We acknowledge and will continue to educate ourselves about the slaveholding roots of the Sewanee community and of the University of the South, and we pledge to recognize, acknowledge, and work to reconcile this history in all we do;

We pledge to make the Sewanee community a welcoming place for people of all nations, all races, and all religions;

We affirm that Black Lives Matter. We recognize that all lives are precious, but that systemic injustice, oppression, exclusion, and violence against the black community are insufferable and must stop, and that we must actively do our part to make them stop;

We pledge to listen to black and brown community members, to recognize their experience, and to act always with humility and empathy with regard to their needs and concerns.

Sewanee is a special place for all who live here, work here, and study here. Our community is not free from the scourge of systemic racism, nor are we guiltless in its continuance. We pledge to rise above the complacency of mere good intentions and to take action whenever we can to ensure justice and peace for all who call Sewanee home, and for people across this nation and around the world.

Online Play Series Features Local Playwright

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s original play “Georgia Mae James Unplugs America” was recently featured in an online play series created in the wake of the coronavirus.

Plays in the House, an extension of the live performance series Stars in the House, is a daily benefit series aimed at raising money for The Actors Fund.

“At the beginning of quarantine, these NY theatre personalities started hosting online live shows with different Broadway performers to raise money for the actors’ fund and it took off. They started doing a series for young audiences and casting Broadway kids to perform in them,” Wilder said. “For the reading of ‘Georgia Mae,’ I was able to use one of our Sewanee students, Kristopher Kennedy, for one of the roles”

Wilder said “Georgia Mae” is about Georgia Mae, who shut down the power grid to get the attention of her siblings while their parents are out. What she didn’t realize is that shutting down the grid left her parents stranded in the city. The story unfolds as the siblings attempt to restore power and bring their parents home.

Kristopher Kennedy, an English major and theatre fellow at the University, said his role was to serve as a narrator of sorts, providing context for the audience.

“I play a radio announcer and an engineer. It’s quite a lot of fun figuring out how to transition between these different characters in a single show, and a great gift from the playwright to have the freedom to do so. As an actor, it gives me lots of room to try and make interesting choices,” he said. “I made a point to delete all my social media during quarantine to really take advantage of this suddenly abundant gift of free time. There is much bliss to be had these days, and I think ‘Georgia Mae’ draws attention to the many creative ways in which we can pursue bliss without any sort of distractions.”

Wilder said that pursuit is exactly what she hoped to accomplish with “Georgia Mae.”

“Art has always been reflective of our experiences, that holds a mirror up to our society, asks big questions, serves as an escape. I’m curious to see how art not only reflects the crisis but also the gifts that have come out of it, the building of community, the chance for peaceful reflection, appreciation for the simpler things in our lives that happen when we are no longer going to work and going to school. I think acknowledging the different experiences and reflecting that in the art we create and hold.”

“Georgia Mae James Unplugs America” was read in Sewanee in February of this year. The video of the reading will be available on the Plays in the House website for a limited time. For more information about Plays in the House, visit

​Changes at STRHS-Sewanee Hospital

by Leslie Lytle,Messenger Staff Writer

Carolyn Sparks, Chief Operating Officer for Southern Tennessee Regional Health System Winchester-Sewanee, confirmed on June 22 that acute care patients at the Sewanee hospital were being sent to Winchester. The Emergency Room and Skilled Care wing at Sewanee are still in operation.

STRHS declined to give a formal statement on the change.

“Like a lot of the hospitals across the country, we’ve made some operational changes at both the Sewanee campus and the Winchester campus as part of our emergency response plan for COVID-19,” said Abby Pickett, Marketing and Communications Coordinator. “I can reassure you Sewanee is safe and open for business.”

Pickett declined to say whether or not sending Sewanee patients to Winchester for acute care would be a permanent practice. “We’re adapting our operations. It’s very fluid during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve implemented a lot of operational changes to keep our patients, our providers, and our community safe.”

On June 15, STRHS-Winchester acquired Winchester based Therapy Works. The press release stated, “This expansion gives STRHS - Winchester the opportunity to grow its therapy services to better serve the residents of Franklin County and its surrounding communities in southern middle Tennessee and beyond. The expanded Physical Therapy & Rehab Services will have three locations at 100 Bible Crossing Road in Decherd, and 1260 University Avenue in Sewanee, and 94 Hospital Road in Winchester, Tennessee.”

Asked if plans still called for “expanded Physical Therapy & Rehab Services” at STRHS-Sewanee, Pickett said, “We have three physical therapy locations right now, one in Decherd, one in Winchester, and one in Sewanee. At this time the Sewanee physical therapy unit is still operational.”

Registration Open for Tennessee Naturalist Program

Registration is now open for the 2020-21 Tennessee Naturalist Program (TNP), sponsored by the Friends of the South Cumberland.

TNP is a series of 10, four-hour classes that are designed to introduce adult learners to the natural history of Tennessee. Graduates join a critical corps of volunteers providing nature education, outreach and service to the South Cumberland State Park (SCSP).

Classes are scheduled in two semesters, from September to November and February to May, and are usually held on Saturday mornings. The classwork is divided between lectures, hands-on activities and many hours of outdoor immersion. Topics include geology, forests, plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, aquatic ecosystems, trail building and interpretation.

The fieldwork portion of the course can be physically demanding, with off-trail hikes on steep hills and rough terrain, and some night activities.


Sept 12, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the SCSP Visitors Center: Becoming a Tennessee Naturalist with Todd Wright and Deb Dreves.

Sept 26, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Grundy Forest Day Loop: Tennessee’s Forests with Dr. Ken Smith.

Oct 10, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Reptiles and Amphibians with Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator Margaret Matens.

Oct 24, 5 to 9:30 p.m. at the Dubose Conference Center: The Nocturnal Naturalist with Dr. Richard Clements.

Nov 7, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Gundy Forest Day Loop: Geology with Dr. Bran Potter.

Feb 6, 9 am. to 1:30 p.m. at the University of the South Snowden Hall Room 101: Tennessee Mammals with State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath.

Mar 13, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., South Cumberland State Park: Trail Building.

Mar 27, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the University of the South Spencer Hall Room 173: Forbs, Ferns, and Fungi with Mary Priestley and Yolande Gottfried.

April 10, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., University of the South Spencer Hall Room 173: Tennessee Invertebrates with Dr. Kirk Zigler.

Apr 24, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the University of the South Snowden Hall Room 101: Tennessee’s Living Waters with Ron Ramsey.

May 15, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the SCSP Visitors Center: Tennessee Birds with Ranger Mark Taylor.


The cost for the classes is $250 per person for current members of the Friends of South Cumberland State Park. For those who are not current members, the fee is $275 per person, which includes a one-year individual membership in the Friends.

Classes are limited to 20 participants. Requirements for becoming a Tennessee Naturalist are 40 hours of instruction and 40 hours of environmentally focused volunteer service. To register or for more information, visit, or email


A scholarship has been made available by the Friends of South Cumberland to be used by a teacher in the Grundy County School System. To learn more about the scholarship, email

The SCSP is located within four Tennessee counties: Grundy, Franklin, Marion and Sequatchie. The park is composed of approximately 30,845 acres in nine separate areas and boasts some of the best hiking and backcountry camping in the region. For more information, visit

The Friends of South Cumberland is a group of volunteer citizens dedicated to supporting the South Cumberland State Park, at 30,837 acres, Tennessee’s largest state park. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership corporation, funding for the Friends of South Cumberland is derived from individual and corporate memberships and from private donations.

​Financial Assistance Available for Families that Qualify for Free and Reduced School Lunches

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) and the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) announced Tennessee families are now eligible to receive financial support for their children’s nutritional needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. This support is provided through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program.

Under the new P-EBT program, families of children who receive free or reduced meals at school or attend a Community Eligibility Provision school may receive financial assistance to replace school meals during the months of March, April and May due to COVID-19 school closures. The program will provide parents with $5.70 per child for each day that child qualifies for P-EBT.

“Families across our state depend on the meals their children receive at school and many were not prepared to immediately replace those meals when schools shut down for COVID-19,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “The P-EBT program brings economic support to ensure children receive the nutrition they need. Helping families through this emergency is how we continue building a thriving Tennessee.”

Parents who already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits currently, do not need to apply. The funds began arriving on the EBT card they already use beginning June 12. Parents who do not receive SNAP benefits, but whose children do qualify for free or reduced school meals, will need to apply for P-EBT online here beginning June 15. The application period will end June 29, 2020.

Individuals who need assistance completing their P-EBT application or have general questions about the program are encouraged to call the TDHS hotline at 1-833-496-0661 and select option 3. Qualifying families will receive P-EBT support in two installments, one for meals in March and April initially, and then one additional disbursement later next month for May meals.

“During the COVID-19 school closures, we saw an incredible, herculean effort to keep providing meal services to students and families,” said TDOE Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “This additional relief from P-EBT will be helpful during this time of uncertainty for families and it is important to make sure every eligible family knows about the program.”

Throughout the COVID-19 school closures, many districts and schools across Tennessee used innovative ways to continue delivering meals to students and families, such as “grab and go” options, drive-throughs, or bus delivery, and on average provided 1.5 million meals a week to families regardless of a student’s enrollment. Many emergency sites are continuing to provide student meals and receiving these meals does not disqualify a family from the P-EBT program.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve states for Pandemic EBT (P-EBT). Approved state agencies may operate P-EBT when a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation when the school would otherwise be in session. Tennessee is among the more than 40 states that have received P-EBT approval.

Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at

FC Meal Distribution

The Franklin County School Nutrition Program will continue meal distribution through July 30, 2020. Meals may be picked up in a drive-thru service at Franklin County High School each Thursday from 1:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Pick up location is at the back of the school at the kitchen dock area. Children do not have to be present to receive meals. All children under 18 years of age may receive meals at no cost. Frozen foods must be heated at home following re-heating guidelines. Meals are not to be consumed on-site. Distribution days are July 2, July 9, July 16, July 23 & July 30. For more information, contact the School Nutrition District Office.

​SUD Grapples with Uncertainties

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the June 16 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners grappled with two large-scale financial uncertainties confronting the utility: revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost to SUD of plans to narrow Highway 41A. SUD’s auditor Don Mills attended the meeting to provide an overview of SUD’s 2019 audit. Mills weighed in on the discussion from the perspective of the district’s financial health.

“We still have three more months of foreseeable decline in sales,” SUD manager Ben Beavers said. Compared to May of 2019, water sales decreased by 29 percent and sewer revenue by 48 percent. “Our residential revenue hasn’t dropped, but commercial and institutional is what’s killing us.”

Looking to the future, Commissioner Doug Cameron said the University planned to bring the students back early, eliminate fall break, send students home for the semester at Thanksgiving and to have them take final exams remotely.

Beavers hopes SUD will recover 80-90 percent of its revenue with the return of the students. He told SUD employees there would likely be no raises this year. “We’ll do what we have to do to reduce costs so employees can keep their jobs,” Beavers said.

Mills said SUD could expect to show a negative net change in position for 2020, but noted the negative finding would need to occur two years consecutively before the state comptroller intervened. “The district is financially healthy,” Mills said. “So long as you don’t have to pay TDOT half a million dollars you’re in pretty good shape.”

Updating the board on the cost to SUD of narrowing Highway 41A, Beavers said, “We’re still seeking adjustments to the plan.” The initial proposed cost, almost $500,000, had decreased to $327,000. At SUD’s request, the SUD engineer reduced manhole depth and eliminated a redundant service line to further reduce costs.

“Our pipes could stay where they are if TDOT would move their storm drains,” Beavers said. SUD’s cost would decrease to approximately $100,000.

Beavers has been calling daily to inquire about the status of the plan. “I sent them a response saying we wouldn’t sign the contract until we got a definitive answer about what the changes we requested.”

The highway is being narrowed in conjunction with the University’s Sewanee Village project.

Beavers said, according to the project manager, the University’s position is paying for relocating the lines is SUD’s responsibility. TDOT regulations stipulate utilities must bear the cost of relocating service lines for road projects.

In other business, the board discussed modifying the Adjustment Policy to allow for a sewer bill adjustment for customers who filled swimming pools, since the pool water did not enter the sewer system. Beavers said the Fowler Center pool water did enter the sewer system, but proposed SUD could inspect residential pools to confirm the water did not drain to the sewer and estimate the pool size to determine an adjustment amount.

SUD is currently prohibited from taking new customers in the Mikel Lane area due to excessive wastewater overflows. The manhole being lower than the pumping station is the cause, Beavers said. SUD will raise the manhole, cost $500, to remedy the problem.

The board meets next on July 21.

​Locally Made Hand Sanitizer at Branchwater Distillery

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Until 2016, Sheila Kelley had no idea that she had moonshine in her blood. She’d never heard her dad talk about his parents’ connection to distilling, and truthfully, she doesn’t much care for the stuff.

It wasn’t until her son, Bud Kelley, decided he wanted to open a distillery of his own that her dad shared the story.

“My dad was talking to Bud one day, and he said, ‘You know your great-grandparents were bootleggers, right?’ I had no idea, but back in the day, even more prohibition, his parents were bootleggers. They had children to feed, and they were poor, so they supplemented their income by making and selling moonshine,” Kelley said “The recipe we use at Branchwater is the very same recipe they used more than 100 years ago.”

Branchwater Distillery, located at 115 2nd Avenue NW in Winchester, is a local moonshine still owned and operated by Sheila, her son Bud and the Kelley family. When the outbreak of COVID-19 first began and news spread that non-essential businesses would be closing in the state of Tennessee, the Kelleys worried their business wouldn’t be able to survive through an undetermined period of closure.

But when they noticed all the empty shelves where bottles of hand sanitizer once sat at grocery stores and pharmacies, an idea came to mind. They had already been using their moonshine to disinfect the bar at Branchwater. Why not make it into hand sanitizer too?

After contacting the Food & Drug Administration and confirming that their moonshine was strong enough to meet health and safety regulations, the Kelleys began making the sanitizer — and soon, they were selling out as quickly as they could make it.

“The moonshine comes out of the still at 160 or 170 proof, and to be legal according to federal government guidelines, the alcohol has to be 140 proof. We take the moonshine and add aloe vera to it so it is not drying on your hands,” she said. “But you can use it on everything. We’ve always used it at the distillery to disinfect door handles and in our bar area. We would just use straight moonshine to clean up because we know it’s going to kill the germs.”

Kelley said since they began selling sanitizer, the community’s response has been immense. They’ve had to limit the number of bottles customers can purchase to allow as many households access to the product as possible.

“There’s at least a 7-14 day turnaround once we get low to make it, so we try to keep back stock all the time. We started making it right away, and once word got out, we were overwhelmed,” she said. “Because of the immense response, we will keep making it after the virus dissipates. We were using it for sanitizing anyway, so it only makes sense.”

Branchwater Distillery is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 8 p.m. For more information about their stock and to stay up-to-date on seasonal offerings, visit their Facebook page at

​Juneteenth Event Planned

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

Nestled in the midst of a well-to-do neighborhood in Missouri City, Texas, less than five minutes from Jasmine Baxter’s home, stands a tall, unassuming oak tree. Its branches that stretch out to reach the sky and its sprawling boughs of oak leaves look slightly out of place surrounded by gated communities.

But for those who know their Black history, the significance of the tree is great.

“It’s called the Freedom Tree, and underneath that tree is where the slaves [of Palmer Plantation] learned that they were free. There is a plaque on the tree that tells the story,” said Baxter, a Franklin County native.

The story goes that slaves from the Palmer Plantation gathered around the base of the great oak on June 19, 1865, and in the shade of its branches, the plantation’s white overseer delivered the news of their freedom. More than 150 years later, that date, known as Juneteenth, is commemorated with parades, picnics and cookouts and community discussions.

And this year, Winchester is joining in on the celebration. On Sunday, June 21, from 4–8 p.m. at the Old Cowan Road Neighborhood Park, residents and organizers with the newly-formed community advocacy group The CUSP for Change will celebrate Juneteenth with food, music, kids games, community conversations and messages from guest speakers.

“Things have been dark for the last few months, and in the midst of it all, we need something to celebrate. So much of our history and heritage have been erased, and the rest is narrowed down to one month and a couple of holidays. We’re all learning about it together, and we’re going to celebrate that. We’re going to celebrate the fight our ancestors went through for us to get here. This is about creating a platform of positivity for people to feel comfortable enough to share their experiences,” Baxter said.

Fellow organizer Terrance Martin said it is his hope the event provides a space for the community to reflect on the significance of the day as well as to look to the future.

“We are all in a moment of reflection right now as we stop to adjust to this new normal, and in the midst of all this, it’s important we challenge what we know,” he said. “Where did we get this resilience from? How did we get where we are today? This event is to learn about and acknowledge the past, but we are also going to celebrate because our ancestors deserve to be honored for standing strong,” he said.

Baxter said safety is the group’s first priority, and gloves, masks and sanitizer will be available at the event. There will also be security present.

The event is free, and all are welcome to attend. For more information about the event, contact Jasmine Baxter at <>.

University ​Fall Academic Calendar Announced

The Fall Operational Group has been planning for how the University will operate in the fall, and has made some initial decisions regarding fall semester start dates and the academic calendar.

The Sewanee Fall Operational Group (Sewanee FOG) has been planning for how the University will operate in the fall. The initial decisions now have been made regarding fall semester start dates and the academic calendar. The focus on creating a learning environment that keeps our campus and local community healthy and safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while still delivering an exceptional and fulfilling academic experience, requires some changes to the original schedule for the semester.

The University intends to have on-campus instruction this fall. Assuming that is possible, both the College and the School of Theology will begin their classes earlier in August than previously anticipated, and both will complete classes before Thanksgiving. Final exams will take place remotely after Thanksgiving.

For the College:

Monday, Aug. 3: Finding Your Place (FYP) program begins for first-year students

Thursday, Aug. 13: Orientation begins for new students

Monday, Aug. 17: Classes begin

Wed.–Mon., Nov. 25–30: Thanksgiving break

Wed.–Tues., Dec. 2–8: Final exams (remote)

The College will not have the traditional four-day fall break, but will have two “respite days” to provide a break from coursework (Sept. 23 and Oct. 28). Students will not return to campus after the Thanksgiving break until the spring semester.

Some fall dates and programs are still under review and those plans will be announced soon, including dates for PRE, move-in, and athletic teams’ return for practice. Fall events like Family Weekend, Foundation Day Convocation, and Homecoming are still under consideration.

The Southern Athletic Association (SAA) has indicated its intention to hold athletic contests in the fall, although details of what the season will entail are still being determined.

For the School of Theology:

Friday, Aug. 14: Orientation begins for new students (in person and remote)

Monday, Aug. 24: First day of classes

Friday, Nov. 20: Last day of classes

Mon.–Fri., Nov. 30–Dec. 4: Final exams (remote)

The Reading Days previously scheduled on Sept. 29 and from Oct. 15–18 have been cancelled. The DuBose Lectures also have been cancelled for this fall.

Life on Campus

It is clear that life on the Sewanee campus this fall will be different. These adjustments to the academic calendar are made with the safety, health, and well-being of our campus community foremost in our minds. Plans for a safe reopening, and a safe semester, will require a regimen of screening, testing, tracing, masking, and social distancing as well as a shared commitment by everyone on campus to personal protective and risk-reducing behaviors.

The Fall Operational Group continues to develop plans for residence halls, dining services, and cleaning practices, in addition to the protocols for screenings and expectations for personal behavior.

Update from the TN Dept. of Health

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

COVID-19 Public Information Number 877-857-2945 or 833-556-2476 Available 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday – Friday and 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.

COVID-19 Cases by County Total
COVID-19 Cases Recovered
COVID-19 Cases Deaths
COVID-19 Cases Hospitalized
COVID-19 Cases Tested

TDOE Releases First 5 School Reopening Toolkits to Provide Districts with Guidance and Resources after COVID-19 School Closures

Monday, June 15, 2020 | 04:12pm

Monday, June 15, 2020

TDOE Releases First 5 School Reopening Toolkits to Provide Districts with Guidance and Resources after COVID-19 School Closures

Department Will Release 26 Reopening Toolkits to Support District Plans for Fall

NASHVILLE, TN— Today, the Tennessee Department of Education has released the first five reopening toolkits in a series of 20+ topic-specific resources to help guide district leaders in local decision-making for school reopening this fall.

In addition to the Overview Guide for LEAs, which serves as a high-level guidance document to provide broad questions and considerations for local districts, there will be 26 toolkits released over the next two weeks focused on key topics to assist Tennessee’s district and school leaders as they make local reopening plans.

“These reopening toolkits represent an incredible amount of work done across our districts and the department to gather best practices, recommendations, and information that will help spur critical and creative thinking about how our state—and our nation—navigates a completely new era of education,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We hope these toolkits provide our district and school leaders with considerations and guidance as they make the best local decisions for the upcoming school year.”

The department will continue to update toolkits after release to reflect district practices.

Today, these are the first five toolkits that are available for districts to utilize:

  • School Nutrition: By building upon experiences of the spring school closures in 2020, districts should inform strategies on how to ensure continuity of meal services through new and evolving contexts. This toolkit provides an overview for district leaders and local school nutrition directors on strategies and considerations to approach re-opening of schools, exploring alternative nutrition operations, and capturing the best practices from the spring closures.
  • Transportation: School transportation plays a key role in school operations and the opportunities to support student wellbeing. This toolkit provides an overview of considerations, strategies, and resources to help districts ensure that student transportation continues to play a support role to students in keeping them as safe as possible going to and from school.
  • Special Populations: Just as supporting our special populations during school closure required additional intentionality, such will be the case upon reopening. This toolkit focuses on reopening strategies for continuing educational opportunities and services regarding our special populations, including special education and English learners.
  • Finance: Faced with economic uncertainties that may impact district budgets, finance directors will need to rethink fiscal strategies, leverage federal grant flexibilities and opportunities, and pursue competitive grants while maintaining strong internal practices on data quality and fiscal controls. This toolkit will provide district leaders with financial-related action items and considerations for the reopening of schools.
  • Implementation Guide Templates:

The forthcoming reopening toolkits will also be robust resources to dig deeper into considerations, best practices, and recommendations around additional critical topics. The following toolkits will be released following this schedule:

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

  • Technology
  • Wellbeing & Mental Health
  • Counseling
  • Early Childhood
  • Consolidated Funding

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

  • Academics
  • Charter Schools
  • Nonpublic Schools
  • Access & Opportunity
  • Postsecondary Transitions

Thursday, June 18, 2020

  • Staffing
  • Professional Development
  • Assessing Student Learning
  • Governance

Friday, June 19, 2020

  • Health & Public Health
  • School Improvement
  • Safety & Operations
  • Procedures and videos

Monday, June 22, 2020

  • Continuous Learning Plans, Template, and Example
  • Expanded Planning Tool

The reopening toolkits, along with other guidance documents and resources, are available to schools and districts on the Tennessee Department of Education’s reopening guidance webpage:

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact

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