Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 14 Thursday afternoon declaring a state of emergency in the state in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 COVID-19 for the purpose of facilitating the treatment and containment of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
As of Wednesday in Tennessee, the number of COVID-19 tests completed totals 88, with 79 negative test results and 9 positive. The confirmed and presumptive cases, reported to or tested by the Tennessee Department of Health since January 21, are from five counties across the state.
Nine additional positive test results were announced on Thursday, bringing the total in the state to 18.
Williamson County is the highest with 8 reported cases, followed by 6 cases in Davidson County, 2 in Shelby County and one each in Knox and Sullivan counties.
“Today’s action will move us into a position to utilize additional emergency funds as needed and relax provisions of certain laws to provide the flexibility needed to respond to the disease,” said Governor Lee in a statement.
“While the risk to the general public remains low, we encourage all Tennesseans to exercise caution and maintain good hygiene practices as there are serious risks to our vulnerable populations.”
Governor Lee’s statement encouraged vulnerable populations to stay home where possible and avoid large gatherings or locations where they are more likely to contract the virus.
The statement described vulnerable populations as including older adults and adults with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory illness.
As such, non-essential visits to nursing homes and hospitals were strongly discouraged.
The statement included a summary of what Executive Order No. 14 does:
• Implements the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan;
• Permits health care professionals licensed in other states to provide health care services in Tennessee related to COVID-19;
• Allows pharmacists to dispense an extra 30-day supply of maintenance prescriptions as needed in response to COVID-19;
• Allows health care professionals to provide localized treatment to patients in temporary residences;
• Expands testing sites for COVID-19;
• Allows the construction of temporary health care structures in response to COVID-19;
• Implements price-gouging protections on medical and emergency supplies;
• Suspends restrictions on vehicles transporting emergency supplies to areas affected by COVID-19;
• Permits the waiver of certain regulations on childcare centers as needed to respond to the effect of COVID-19;
• Authorizes TennCare policy changes to ensure that covered individuals receive medically necessary services without disruption; and
• Directs coordination with health insurance plans to improve access to screening, testing, and treatment for COVID-19.
The leaders of the Tennessee General Assembly, Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), issued a joint statement following Governor Lee’s declaration of emergency.
“The General Assembly is encouraging groups who have planned non-essential events and activities in and around the Cordell Hull Building and Capitol to consider rescheduling or postponing. We will continue with the business for which we have been elected and for which we are constitutionally bound. But we will do so with extreme caution and in the public health’s best interest. We will continue to monitor the spread of the virus and keep in consultation with Governor Lee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Our website will remain online and meetings will continue to be streamed and televised. The people of Tennessee will still have access to the work they have elected us to do. We will continue to take additional action as needed.”
As of the time Executive Order No. 14 was issued, Tennessee joined at least seven other states in declaring states of emergency including Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that there have been 938 cases of COVID-19 identified in the United States, resulting in 29 deaths, according to the executive order.
Governor Lee said, “We will continue to evaluate and adapt our position accordingly to fit what we believe is best for Tennesseans.”
Executive Order No. 14 remains in effect until 12:01 a.m., Central Daylight Time, on May 11, 2020.
Tennesseans can obtain up-to-date information on COVID-19 in the state here.
– – –
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.
Background Photo “Bill Lee Press Conference” by The Tennessean.