Good Friday morning and happy tax-free weekend from Memphis! From now through Sunday, you can buy clothing, school supplies and electronics (specifics here) without paying taxes. But first…
For the first time since the federal and state Tennessee Waltz sting operation in 2005, a sitting state senator from Memphis has been indicted and is facing federal prosecution.
Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, was indicted by a Grand Jury yesterday on 24 counts of theft and embezzlement from government programs and 24 counts of wire fraud — 48 counts altogether — related to accusations she treated federal grants meant for her for-profit nursing school, The Healthcare Institute, as her personal piggy bank.
Robinson allegedly stole $600,000 after her school received $2.2 million in federal grants from 2015-2019 to train nurses and offer low-income scholarships, per our Corinne Kennedy’s story.
After her arrest yesterday, Robinson was released on her own recognizance, Corinne reports. Her travel is restricted to West and Middle Tennessee, per court documents.
Yesterday’s The 901:: Memphis senator faces federal charges — should she resign?
Robinson now has the ignoble distinction of being the first state senator from Memphis indicted since 2005, when the Operation Tennessee Waltz bribery string netted Sen. John Ford and Sen. Kathryn I. Bowers, both Democrats, among several others, per The Tennessean‘s long list of elected officials who have gotten on the wrong side of the law. (If you want to expand the search terms to include state representatives in Greater Memphis, the latest arrest of a sitting lawmaker would be of former Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, who was arrested for stealing his opponent’s political yard signs in 2016.)
That’s not all the list shows, though.
Having lived in all three divisions of the state — West, Middle and East Tennessee — I can say from personal experience that there’s a pernicious narrative in some areas of the state, often colored by racism, that Memphis is a hotbed of political corruption. It’s unfortunate and unfair that this latest scandal hands the city’s detractors more ammo.
But look at how many Memphians are on the list, which goes back to 1966: The idea that Memphis has a corner on corrupt politicians is patently false. Political corruption is a bipartisan and statewide problem, and has been for decades. If Robinson is guilty, her conviction will be an indictment, not of Memphis, but of the fact that she is only human.
After first day, Koepka leads at WGC
At the end of the first round of the World Golf Championship-FedEx St. Jude Invitational yesterday, 2019 tournament champion Brooks Koepka was again atop the leaderboard.
Our Jason Munz has takeaways from the first day while out Khari Thompson clues us in on what to look out for today and our Evan Barnes has a quick guide to how to watch the tournament. One of Khari’s takeaways: a snake was spotted near the 11th green.
Anyway, the big question of the second day is whether Rickie Fowler and Brendon Todd — who are tied for second place — will be able to overtake Koepka. Koepka, who shot an 8-under-par score of 62, is two strokes ahead of Fowler and Todd headed into Day 2.
Le Bonheur releases school guidance
There isn’t a “good answer” for how to reopen physical classrooms, but Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital pediatrician-in-chief Dr. Jon McCullers has a few suggestions.
At a press conference yesterday, Le Bonheur, “in concert” with the Shelby County Health Department, issued a 21-page report of guidelines for schools, our Laura Testino reports. You can read the full report here. Here are three highlights from the report:
1. Make contact tracing easier. Schools can make the jobs of contact tracers — its own or the health department’s — a lot easier by being sticklers about social distancing rules, according to the report. An interesting paragraph from the report:
Contact tracers should determine through interviews with students and teachers which individuals spent more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of the infected individual, starting two days before onset of symptoms. Enforcing physical distancing will make contact tracing much easier. Individuals wearing full PPE (i.e. school nurse with gown, gloves, N-95 mask and face shield) will not be considered contacts regardless of distance and duration of exposure.
2. Wear masks where possible. This is an obvious one, but some local school districts only plan to require masks when entering or leaving school buildings. Better advice:
Masks should be worn every day as much as possible by students and staff, with the exception of individuals who have a medical exemption for masking for behavioral or medical reasons. Physical distancing of children who cannot wear masks is very important to prevent exposure. Parents should notify staff and administration of these students in advance of the start of school.
3. Give all kids a flu shot. Because the symptoms of COVID-19 are so similar to the flu, Le Bonheur is recommending that all children receive a flu shot to limit virus scares. Here’s a paragraph from Laura’s story about this issue:
Influenza vaccines for all children are also strongly recommended by the task force. The vaccine would reduce transmission of the flu and keep more children in school, but also “make identification of COVID easier clinically, and reduce demand for testing.” The guidelines recommend schools consider administration of the vaccine in schools.
Speaking of COVID and schools: Our Laura Testino also has an insightful look at what COVID-19 meant for one Shelby County Schools teacher. The takeaway: Because of the rapid transmission rate and long recovery period of COVID-19, there’s incredibly little room for error when reopening schools. That’s why more schools — the University of Memphis, most recently, per Laura — are starting the school year virtually.
What else is happening in the 901
- For subscribers: The Shelby County Health Department just rolled back restrictions on contact sports, but Le Bonheur’s chief pediatrician says it’s too early, our Khari Thompson reports. (Not a subscriber? Please consider becoming one.)
- Also for subscribers: Don’t expect Amazon’s growth in the Mid-South to slow down anytime soon, our Max Garland reports.
- Also also for subscribers: Win or lose in Orlando, the Memphis Grizzlies have had a stellar season — and still has one of the most promising young cores in the NBA, our Mark Giannotto opines.
- The Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division will extend a moratorium on utility disconnections for another three weeks, until Aug. 24, due to a recent (but possibly slowing) increase in COVID-19 cases, our Sam Hardiman reports.
- A screw-up by the property and evidence room ended up giving false hope that the conviction of Pervis Tyrone Payne for the 1987 stabbing deaths of a Millington woman and her 2-year-old daughter could be overturned, our Katherine Burgess reports. His attorneys are still fighting Shelby County Attorney General Amy Weirich for the right to test an untested DNA sample from the scene in a bid to clear Payne ahead of his execution, which is currently scheduled for Dec. 3.
- After surviving a two-month bout with COVID-19, Memphis-born, Mississippi-based “spiritual blues scion” Rev. John Wilkins plans to release a new album this September via Memphis’ Goner Records, our Bob Mehr reports.
- From our business bureau: FedEx Logistics is giving its employees more time to relocate to a new Downtown headquarters, our Max Garland reports. Also, Max assesses the latest earnings report from Memphis-based International Paper and looks at how the company plans to offset its COVID-19 losses.
The Fadeout: Dirty Streets’ new album
After listening through Memphis band Dirty Streets’ new album “Rough and Tumble,” out today, the song that stood out to me the most was “Think Twice,” which fades us out…
Like The Fadeout? Check out The 901’s Spotify playlist. Want to submit a recommendation of your own? Reach me by email, address below.
Columnist Ryan Poe writes The 901, a running commentary on all things Memphis. Reach him at [email protected] and on Twitter @ryanpoe.
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