NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover said she was “thrilled” to receive a call from Oprah Winfrey asking what she could do to help Nashville residents suffering from the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus.
Glover and Mt. Zion Baptist Church Bishop Joseph Walker III worked together with other churches and groups to create Nashville Nurtures, which recently distributed 10,000 Kroger gift cards for $200 to families, thanks to a $2 million donation from Winfrey.
Speaking to reporters by video conference on Tuesday, Winfrey said she doesn’t usually talk about her charitable work, but she’s discussing it now because she wants to inspire other people to help during this pandemic. She said the $200 gift cards serve an immediate need but also give people a sense of hope.
Winfrey’s gifts — $12 million total — went to several cities where she has lived and worked over the years. Speaking of her connection to Nashville, she said, “I grew up there. I was a young girl there. I started my television career there. I started my radio career at WVOL in Nashville. … I got hired there when I was 16 years old.”
She also recalled getting pulled out of class at TSU to take a call from Chris Clark, the longtime news anchor at WTVF-TV, who asked, “I understand that you’re in radio, would you like a job in television?”
Glover said she was touched by Winfrey’s “concern for her hometown, for those who were laid off, the single parents, those about to lose their homes because of COVID-19.”
Glover and Walker said the work that Winfrey has begun will continue. Nashville Nurtures will help people connect to groups that provide food assistance and other aid. Meanwhile TSU has begun what it calls the COVID-19 Academy, which provides free job training and continuing education to those who may have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
The pandemic has shown us “how we are all connected, and how we are one,” Winfrey said, “because look who turned out to be essential.”
“What I am hoping is that no one looks at a grocery cashier the same, no one looks at the guy who’s stocking groceries the same, no one looks at the food that has come to the table and the truck driver that had to get it to the grocery store the same.”
In other virus-related news, just a handful of nursing home facilities have been able to test all of their residents and staff for COVID-19 nearly three weeks after Gov. Bill Lee ordered them to do so.
According to the Department of Health, 34 of the state’s nearly 700 nursing homes had completed coronavirus testing as of Monday. Another 23 facilities intend to complete their testing by next Tuesday.
Agency spokeswoman Shelley Walker said 622 facilities have “submitted preliminary information” to the state regarding their testing status. However, she didn’t answer directly when asked if all the facilities would have the testing completed by May 31.
“TDH will continue to work with nursing homes on a case by case basis to complete this initiative,” Walker said in an email. “While many nursing homes are able to complete testing on all residents and staff members themselves, some need PPE, testing kits and/or the support of the National Guard or local or regional health departments to collect specimens.”
More than 100 people have died at long-term care facilities in Tennessee because of the coronavirus, while nearly 1,000 cases have been confirmed in 51 facilities. That’s out of 309 virus-related deaths across Tennessee as of Wednesday.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.
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