Join Nora and other Tennesseans in supporting the American Rescue Plan
My name is Nora Cooper. I moved to Nashville in November, 2019, a city to which I had been drawn since I was a teenager living in California. I had lived in Boston two years, working in the restaurant industry, when I decided that the time was right to make the move to Tennessee.
This city has a vibrant tourism economy, and I had no problem finding work immediately in the restaurant industry here. Of course, who could have predicted what 2020 would bring - tornadoes, a global pandemic, a Christmas Day bombing - even one of these events would be a test of leadership and resilience. But, Nashville endured all of this in 10 months.
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, it was all very confusing for those of us working in the restaurant industry. When the stay at home order was issued, and our restaurant closed,
We all assumed that Governor Lee and our state’s leaders would use that time to develop a plan. based on what scientists knew about the virus at that time. We hoped that plan would protect Tennesseans - including restaurant workers like me, and our customers. Instead, Governor Lee rushed to reopen businesses before COVID was under control, refusing to listen to doctors and health experts, who were calling for a more phased reopening plan, and safety protocols like social distancing and universal masking.
So, our restaurant reopened in May. Our management team tried to do all the right things - they provided masks for all of us, trained us on sanitation protocols, and asked us to pledge to stay home if we felt sick. The first couple of weeks were really slow - some employees didn’t return to work because community spread was still very high and they chose not to risk catching the virus out of fear of getting infected themselves or infecting someone in their household.
Those of us who did return experienced gaps in the stated safety protocols. We ran out of PPE - gloves, hand sanitizers, sanitary wipes, and even dish detergent at one point. And then there were some customers who refused to wear masks. We did the best we could to be solutions-oriented, but sometimes it just wasn’t enough. And, unsurprisingly, some of us became infected with COVID, and had to quarantine for two weeks, putting even more strain on an already challenging environment.
I want to be very clear - I believe I speak for my colleagues in the restaurant industry when I say that we are very proud of the work we do. We are honored to represent this city’s warm hospitality where tourists come from all over the country to experience all that Nashville has to offer. We just need the resources to do our job safely.
Now, more than ever, most of us believe that our elected leaders have a duty to govern in our interest.
"We deserve leaders who demonstrate the courage to do the right thing, not the politically popular thing."
In Tennessee, that means making sure that businesses have the financial support they need to survive this global pandemic until everyone who wants to be vaccinated gets vaccinated.
Governor Lee needs to take responsibility for facing this challenge instead of passing the buck to cities and counties to figure it out all on their own. Governor Lee, you say you value personal liberty - but, what about my liberty, my right to work safely without fear of getting sick? We still need a mask mandate. Our restaurants need your support to put real teeth into the Tennessee Pledge so that management is not left to enforce this pledge all on their own.
The American Rescue Plan, which President Biden signed into law this week, will be a real lifeline for restaurants, who will be eligible for grants to replace lost revenue due to the pandemic. And for me and my restaurant worker colleagues,thanks to a real plan to get vaccines in arms faster, and the funding to back it up, we will finally be able to get the protection we need to be safe at our jobs.
We need to move forward together, assured that our leaders will deliver what we need - from pandemic relief to vaccine distribution. I urge our Senators Blackburn and Hagarty and Governor Lee to do their jobs, support the American Rescue Plan, and do everything they can to support our businesses and jumpstart our economic recovery here in Tennessee.