The 5 Spot closed voluntarily on March 11 in recognition of the need for social distancing to address the spread of the novel coronavirus. Gov. Bill Lee waited until April 2 to issue a “Safer at Home“ mandate.

Friday News Roundup, April 3

Community Resources and Community Action

Governor Bill Lee Strengthens Safer at Home Order
After weeks of hesitation, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued an executive order on Thursday, April 2, strengthening his earlier “Safer at Home” order. The order requires all Tennesseans to stay at home “except for when engaging in Essential Activity or Essential Services as defined in this order.” The order is effective immediately and will last through at least April 14.

Over the past two weeks a growing number of doctors, public officials, and citizens across the state have called for Lee to take decisive action and follow the example of other states that have mandated the closure of non-essential businesses and required citizens to limit all non-essential travel. Lee received significant criticism both locally and in the national media for his March 30 executive order that “urged” citizens to forego essential activities and travel rather than requiring them to do so.

As of Thursday, state officials reported over 3,000 residents tested positive for COVID-19 infections with at least 32 fatalities.

FEMA Tornado Relief Still Available
While Tennesseans adjust to the new reality in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are still dealing with the aftermath of the March 3 tornado. If your home or business was affected by the tornado, help is still available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the clock is ticking. Homeowners, renters, and businesses in Davidson, Putnam, and Wilson counties must apply for assistance by May 4, 2020.

The East Nashvillian has a compiled resource page for those still seeking financial relief from the devastation of the tornado. Visit our “FEMA Tornado Relief and You” page for a list of available sources and details on how to apply along with important updates on the process.

COVID-19 Financial Relief Resources
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming in regards to both physical health and societal changes, but it’s also been devastating to the financial health and future of many in our community. Restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, retail shops, and more have closed or are operating at a reduced capacity leaving many individuals out of work with grim financial prospects, but help is on the way.

The passage of the CARES Act or COVID-19 stimulus bill into law not only extends and increases the unemployment benefits available to salaried employees but also extends benefits to self-employed freelancers and other workers in the modern gig economy — an especially helpful lifeline for the many musicians, artists, writers, entertainment support workers and others in our local community.  For more information and to apply for benefits, visit the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development website.

The COVID-19 stimulus bill also empowered banks to issue Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans backed by the Small Business Administration. These loans to small businesses affected by the pandemic can be applied to payroll costs, rent, interest on mortgage debt, and utilities. The two-year loans feature a 0.5 percent interest rate and the first eight weeks of costs are forgivable. Applications open Friday, April 3 for small businesses and sole proprietorships, and on Friday, April 10 for independent contractors and self-employed individuals. A summary of the program is available on the SBA website. Businesses must apply through an SBA lender and should contact their local bank. Help is also available by calling the Nashville SBA office at 615.736.5881.

The United Way of Greater Nashville’s COVID-19 Response Fund is another vital resource for individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Since the establishment of the fund just two weeks ago it has already received donations of more than $3.1 million and allocated more than $300,000 to local agencies including Catholic Charities, Conexión Américas, the Martha O’Bryan Center, and others.

For information regarding the fund; the resources available to individuals, small businesses, and organizations; and to make donations, visit the COVID-19 Response Fund website.

Another source of help small businesses is the new, Metro Small Business Task Force website.  The site collects information on federal, state, local, and private resources for small businesses along with current news, articles, and other information to assist small businesses affected by the March 3 tornados and the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit sbtfnashville.com for information and updates.

COVID-19 Testing Centers Now Open
The Metro Health Department opened three Community Assessment Centers this week at Nissan Stadium, Meharry Medical College, and the former Kmart in Antioch, all offering free drive-thru testing for COVID-19. All centers will be open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Metro residents desiring a test should first call the Metro Public Health COVID-19 Information Hotline — 615.862.7777, 7 a.m to 7 p.m. daily — to speak with a public health professional about your symptoms. If an additional assessment is necessary, you will be directed to your healthcare provider or one of Metro’s Community Assessment Centers to be screened and, if necessary, tested for COVID-19.

More information on Community Assessment Centers, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Metro’s response is available at asafenashville.org.

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Ivy Drive Development Update
A virtual meeting of the Metro Nashville Planning Department to discuss a proposed residential development on Ivy Drive in Inglewood has been postponed to April 23 following objections from neighborhood residents.

The proposed development at 3901-3905 Ivy Drive seeks to replace two homes on the 9-acre, adjoining lots with cluster subdivision of 32 homes. The group, Save Ivy Drive, has held two neighborhood meetings to organize opposition to the plan. As a result of the Mayor’s Safer At Home order, the Metro Nashville Planning Department initially announced an online meeting for April 9 that would allow a limited number of residents to express their objections to the plan via phone. The Planning Department has now deferred all contested development hearings in order to develop a better framework for virtual public hearings.

For more information on Save Ivy Drive, visit their Facebook page @saveivydrive.

Take Out and Eat In (at Home)
A reminder that we’re continuing to update our page of Restaurants Offering Take Out & To Go.  It’s a great way to support local businesses along with saving some time for other stay-at-home activities. If you have updates or additions for the list, please contact the editor at randy@theeastnashvillian.com.

From Nashville to Italy to Quarantine
As the number of COVID-19 cases grows each day it’s important to remember that every digit represents one human life and story — including the millions of people who may escape the virus but still have their lives changed by it forever.

Former Nashville Symphony violinist Zeneba Bowers and her cellist husband Matt Walker left Nashville late last year for a new life in Soriano nel Cimino — a town in central Italy, located in the mountains north of Rome. They had barely moved into their new apartment when Italy became ground zero for one of the worst outbreaks of the pandemic that is now sweeping the world. Bowers’ story of how she and husband have handled the crisis and how they have become a part of their new community through their music is both an inspiration and a reminder of the compassion we must have for our neighbors — even while in physical quarantine. Read her story at newsweek.com.

The East Nashvillian — Community in Your Hands
Finally, don’t forget our new print issue is now available! It features coverage of the March 3 tornado, focusing on the amazing Nashvillians that came together in the days following the tragedy to help dig out and rebuild our community, along with other great, local stories like a profile of guitar master and East Nashvillian Robben Ford, a behind the scenes look at a new documentary focusing on gay women in Southern music, and much more. Check out the online version here, and for a list of distribution points and info on how this special issue came together, check-out this special statement from our editor, Chuck Allen.