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Week That Was: Data, Abortion, and Domestic Violence

Virus rates shrink, abortion rights protected, and some worry about those in violent relationships.


Clockwise from top left: abortion, domestic violence, art fund, Gov. Bill Lee, transmission rates, Mid-South Food Bank, shop local
  • Clockwise from top left: abortion, domestic violence, art fund, Gov. Bill Lee, transmission rates, Mid-South Food Bank, shop local

New Data

Tennessee’s coronavirus transmission rate fell over the past week, according to new data from researchers at Vanderbilt University, though the virus situation here remains “delicate and uncertain.”

Virus models from the Nashville university pushed the state’s peak of the virus from mid-April, according to one national model, to mid-May or mid-June, depending on new restrictions on social distancing.

Protecting Abortion

The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with two other organizations, is challenging an order by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee that essentially bans abortion procedures in the state.

Earlier this month, in an executive order responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee moved to limit “non-emergency healthcare procedures” until at least the end of the month. The order does not specifically cite abortion services, but instead reads in part, “All healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities in the state of Tennessee shall postpone surgical and invasive procedures that are elective and non-urgent.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Tennessee filed an emergency lawsuit last week to challenge the order.

The lawsuit argues that the governor’s order effectively bans abortion in the sate, violating Roe v. Wade, as well as women’s rights to liberty and autonomy under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Domestic Violence

As the pandemic continues and stay-at-home orders remain in place, one advocate said it is “common sense” that domestic violence will heighten.

Deborah Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women’s Council, said most in her field are “very worried” for those in abusive or violent domestic relationships.

The biggest concern during this time, “as people are locked in together day after day, week after week,” Clubb said, is a rise in domestic violence homicides. However, there are resources to help those in dangerous situations at home.

Clubb said how one seeks help and relief from domestic violence depends largely on each individual’s circumstance. See a list of agencies and their phone numbers below.


Schools Closed

Governor Bill Lee said last week that he wants all Tennessee schools to remain closed throughout the remainder of the school year.

In a tweet after the announcement, Lee said he's working with the Tennessee Department of Education to "ensure there is flexibility for districts to complete critical year-end activities."

The tweet garnered dozens of responses within the first hour after it was published. Many of them from students, were like this:

Food Bank Needs

Reports and photos are emerging from across the country showing cars, lined by the hundreds, with people waiting to receive food packages from food banks.

Cathy Pope, president of the Mid-South Food Bank, said as the agency has nearly doubled the amount of food it distributes, it is beginning to see long lines form at a few of its mobile food pantries.

Pope said the key to avoiding the long lines and turning individuals away is having enough dedicated distribution sites located throughout the city. That means securing partners who are willing to set up mobile food pantries.

The best way to ensure the agency has enough food to meet the need, Pope said, is to donate. Find more information on how to do that here.

Model Revised

Tennessee’s coronavirus peak and fatality numbers got another downgrade last week from the widely used epidemic model from the University of Washington.

The numbers from the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) have been used by the White House and state and local governments across the country. It has long predicted a virus peak here in mid-to-late April.

But the model has been recently diminished as too optimistic after a Tennessee-specific model was developed by health-care officials from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. That new model holds that the state’s peak won’t come until mid-May or mid-June under different scenarios. Numbers from the Vanderbilt model are not publicly updated.

Art Funds

ArtsMemphis and Music Export Memphis are distributing $77,190 to 159 artists in Shelby County. The funds come from the Artist Emergency Fund, which became public April 1st and supports artists of all types across music, visual art, film and media arts, literary art, theater, and dance.

Shopping Local

With the newly added stresses caused by COVID-19, some of us need a little shopping therapy. Luckily, while we can no longer step inside most shops, local retailers still have us in mind with online and phone ordering for shipping, same-day delivery, and curbside pickup. We’ve amassed an online and curbside shopping guide, featuring products and offerings from our advertisers. View the guide here

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