Blake Farmer

On a sloppy spring day in mid-March, hundreds of Kurdish Americans gathered in a field outside Nashville, Tenn., under a sea of black umbrellas. Some of the men carried a stretcher to an open grave, where a yellow backhoe waited.

In accordance with Muslim tradition, the body of Imad Doski — a prominent community leader — was buried within 24 hours of his death. He was another casualty of COVID-19.

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The teachers at New Hope Academy in Franklin, Tenn., were chatting the other day. The private Christian school has met in person throughout much of the coronavirus pandemic — requiring masks and trying to keep kids apart, to the degree it is possible with young children. And Nicole Grayson, who teaches fourth grade, says they realized something peculiar.

"We don't know anybody that has gotten the flu," she says. "I don't know of a student that has gotten strep throat."

As the speed of COVID vaccinations picks up, so do the reports of doses going to waste. And it's more than just a handful at the end of the day because of a few appointment cancellations. Health officials are trying to address the problems that lead to waste, but without slowing down the roll out of the lifesaving vaccinations.

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.

Rare purple martins are dazzling birders and bystanders near Nashville's tourist district each night for the next week or two. Biologists estimate 150,000 have chosen to temporarily roost on the plaza outside the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. And the symphony very nearly ran them off as a nuisance until they realized they were playing host to protected migratory songbirds.

Looking overhead as the martins descend into the trees at sunset is mesmerizing.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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.

Country music icon Kenny Rogers, whose hits included "Lucille," "Lady" and "The Gambler," died late Friday at his home in Sandy Springs, Ga., his family said in a statement. He was 81.

The Houston-born country star had 20 No.-1 hits and three Grammys and performed for some 60 years before retiring from touring in 2017 at age 79, according to the Associated Press.

Rogers didn't write most of his hits and often said he didn't consider himself much of a songwriter. But he told NPR in 2012 that he had a knack for picking songs that could draw in the listener.

Masks, gloves and other equipment are crucial as health care workers face the COVID-19 outbreak. There is a strategic national stockpile that the U.S. government controls — but no one actually knows, beyond that stockpile, what's already out there in the private sector.

Some hospitals have extras, and some not enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on a system that would track the inventory across the U.S.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Tornadoes ripped through Nashville, Tenn., and surrounding areas overnight. At least seven residents are confirmed dead, many more injured, and authorities are still trying to map out the full scope of the damage. Blake Farmer from our member station WPLN in Nashville joins us now. Blake, I understand you're out and about. Where exactly are you right now, and what are you seeing?

"I'm not anti-hospice at all," says Joy Johnston, a writer from Atlanta. "But I think people aren't prepared for all the effort that it takes to give someone a good death at home."

Babies born to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy represent one of the most distressing legacies of an opioid epidemic that has claimed almost 400,000 lives and ravaged communities.

In fact, many of the ongoing lawsuits filed against drug companies make reference to these babies, fighting through withdrawal in hospital nurseries.

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