Blake Farmer

In December, all states began vaccinating only health care workers and residents and staffers of nursing homes in phase 1A, but since the new year began some states have also started giving shots to — or booking appointments for — certain categories of seniors and essential workers.

A snafu with Operation Warp Speed leaves at least 14 states short of the vaccine doses they were promised. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with WPLN's Blake Farmer about what that means in Tennessee.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Hospitals in much of the country are trying to cope with unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 patients. As of Sunday, 93,238 were hospitalized, an alarming record that far exceeds the two previous peaks in April and July, of just under 60,000 inpatients.

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It was either put food on the table or drop their health insurance, says Oscar Anchia of Miami. His wife's coverage was costing $700 a month, and his hours had been cut back because of the coronavirus pandemic. So Anchia made the difficult decision to drop his spouse from his policy, because they needed the money.

Then in October, his love for 40 years fell ill with COVID-19.

COVID-19 has caused widespread damage to the economy — so wide that it can be easy to overlook how unevenly households are suffering. But new polling data out this month reveal households that either have had someone with COVID-19 or include someone who has a disability or special needs are much more likely to also be hurting financially.

Hopefully, summer won't end the way it began. Memorial Day celebrations helped set off a wave of coronavirus infections across much of the South and West. Gatherings around the Fourth of July seemed to keep those hot spots aflame.

Now Labor Day arrives as those regions are cooling off from COVID-19, and public health experts are calling on Americans to stay vigilant while celebrating the holiday weekend.

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The new coronavirus doesn't discriminate. But physicians in public health and on the front lines say that in the response to the pandemic, they can already see the emergence of familiar patterns of racial and economic bias.

In one analysis, it appears doctors may be less likely to refer African Americans for testing when they show up for care with signs of infection.

In 1998, major tobacco companies reached a historic legal settlement with states that had sued them over the health care costs of smoking-related illnesses. But individual smokers have continued to sue, and to this day the tobacco industry remains tied up in hundreds of court fights with sickened smokers, or with family members who lost a loved one to cancer, heart disease, or other smoking-related illness.

Updated May 17, 2019, 6 p.m. ET

A lawsuit over how to distribute donated livers to dying patients took some startling turns this week.

The United Network for Organ Sharing is returning for the moment to an earlier system for distributing donated livers which it had changed on Tuesday, after a federal court in Atlanta threatened to hold the agency in contempt.

The new anti-abortion tilt of the U.S. Supreme Court has inspired some states to further restrict the procedure during the first trimester of pregnancy and move to outlaw abortion entirely if Roe v. Wade ever falls. But the rush to regulate has exposed division among groups and lawmakers who consider themselves staunch abortion opponents.

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Country star Mel Tillis died yesterday after a long illness. He was 85. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN says the prolific songwriter's road to fame wasn't an easy one.

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The end of summer is coming soon, so let's go south for the final installment in our tour of offbeat festivals.

BLAKE FARMER, BYLINE: This is Blake Farmer in East Nashville reporting from the annual Tomato Art Festival.

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There's a school bus driver shortage in districts from Indiana to Florida, and Nashville, Tenn., has one of the most pressing. Nearly a quarter of the city's 550 slots for drivers are unfilled — and that's when no one is sick.

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Leaders of the country's largest Protestant denomination have a message for millennials: get married already.

The Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention and its nearly 16 million members continue to resist societal trends like gay marriage and cohabitation. They also want to go against the grain on the rising marital age.

But back in 1972, Pam Blume was pretty typical. She was just a few years out of high school when she walked down the aisle.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

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When it comes to union organizing at an auto plant, the tension is typically between the workers and the management. But not at Volkswagen in Tennessee. There, the United Auto Workers is attempting to finally unionize the automaker's first foreign-owned plant in the South. And so far, Republican officials are the ones trying to stand in the way.

There was a time when hymns were used primarily to drive home the message that came from the pulpit. But then came the praise songs.

Matt Redman's song "Our God" is the most popular piece of music in Christian churches today. That's according to charts that track congregational singing — yes, there is such a thing. But approaching the Top 10 is a retro hymn: "In Christ Alone," co-written by Keith Getty.

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On a momentous Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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And I'm Renee Montagne.

The U.S. Army has been ramping up instruction in the languages of Afghanistan, even as troop levels in the country decrease in preparation for the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2014.

This year, key installations have added several hundred speakers of Pashto and Dari to their ranks, more than doubling the number of soldiers trained in the Afghan languages.

But it's not just the country's languages that are foreign to U.S. soldiers — it's the culture, as well.