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Roundup: Executive Order Aims to Help Fight COVID; Schools Try Clasroom Alternatives

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State of Tennessee
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Gov. Lee signs executive order aimed at helping free up medical personnel, labs

An executive order from Governor Bill Lee is intended to lower some bureaucratic barriers with the aim of mobilizing people and facilities to deal with the spread of COVID-19.

The order signed Thursday will loosen certification restrictions so some retired medical professionals can re-enter the workforce. They would not have to demonstrate competence in their field or sit for a vetting interview with a licensing board. The order also temporarily suspends continuing education requirements “so professionals can continue working through the pandemic,” and expands telemedicine efforts so licensed providers can broaden their availability for patients.

The order also empowers Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey to suspend required on-site inspections of medical laboratories “to the extent necessary to allow laboratories to immediately begin testing for COVID-19.”

KCS wants students to maintain momentum during COVID closures

With the region’s public schools shuttered until late April, Knox County’s school system says it plans to put together educational packets for students.

The packets will not be graded and are considered optional, the school board said Thursday. They will initially cover four core subject areas – science, math, English and social studies. Other subjects may be added later on. The packets will not contain new material, but will focus on lessons already taught before classes were suspended March 13.

Printed packets will be offered to students in kindergarten through eighth grade; high school students may be offered online instruction. Teachers may also deliver televised lessons based on the packet material. The lessons could be viewed online or through the Knox County Schools cable channel. KCS officials have been reluctant to implement all-online classes, as many colleges and universities have done, because not all students have reliable internet or computer access at home.

Beginning Monday, April 6, East Tennessee PBS will offer televised instructional programming for students during the late morning and overnight hours.

Anderson County school system rolls out plan to feed students

Monday, March 30, Anderson County’s school system plans to distribute free meals to anyone 18 years old or younger. Initially, the food pickup will be at six locations, and the food will be offered from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Anderson County Schools’ (ACS) nutrition department will provide three days’ worth of breakfast and lunch.

The distribution locations are:

• Andersonville Elementary School, Andersonville

• Claxton Elementary, Powell

• Clinton Middle School, Clinton

• Grand Oaks Elementary, Clinton

• Lake City Elementary, Rocky Top

• Norwood Elementary, Oliver Springs

A second distribution day is planned for Thursday, April 2. The schedule and pickup locations are subject to change. School officials recommend checking with ACS for updates.

Maryville and Alcoa agree to suspend utility shutoffs, late fees

The cities of Maryville and Alcoa won’t cut off utility service or charge late fees for utility bills through April 23.

The city-owned utilities will continue to keep tabs on bills and will help customers make payment arrangements.

Oak Ridge is working on a similar plan with TVA. Loudon Utilities Board suspended service cutoffs last week. Knoxville Utilities Board did the same in mid-March. In each case, utility officials have pointed out service charges are still adding up, and customers will be expected to pay their bills later on.