Once Tennessee Economy Reopens, Will State Quarantine Patients, Trace Contacts?


With Tennessee possibly moving toward an economic reopening in May, one looming question is what, if anything, will the state do with people who continue to test positive for COVID-19, especially ensuring that they are staying quarantined.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday he will extend the state’s stay-at-home order through April 30, but he also said government and private-sector officials are working to reopen the state’s economy in May, The Tennessee Star reported.

Lee said this at a televised press conference, adding “we are not out of the woods yet, and it could be some time [before we are].”

“Until a vaccine or a therapy is widely available to Tennesseans, this virus will be a present reality to us to manage and consider whenever we are making decisions,” Lee said.

Lee said that last month he started working with leaders of industry to understand how this pandemic would impact the state’s businesses.

Considerations include:

  • Will there be a protocol for what happens after someone tests positive?
  • Will public health workers trace the patient’s previous contacts to find others who were possibly infected?
  • Is the state laying plans to hire and train tracers?
  • Does Lee have a budget for all this?

The Star on Tuesday emailed a Lee spokesman these questions, but has not yet received a response:

  1. Is Unified Command or the new economic task force planning to set up a tracing system for positive COVID patients?
  2. Are they creating a plan to isolate patients and ensure compliance with quarantine protocols?
  3. What would a quarantine scenario look like (i.e., number of days in isolation, inclusion of the rest of the household)?
  4. Is the administration looking at a budget for such a system, and would there be federal dollars available?

If Lee wants expert advice on tracking and isolating the novel coronavirus, one possible source is the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which says it is home to three Nobel laureates and interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists who seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases.

Their researchers, like Dr. Trevor Bedford, is working with public health agencies to understand and track the coronavirus such as in Washington state, the Associated Press said. Bedford was involved in the decision to ban large public events in part of the state.

Fred Hutchinson has been researching how the virus escaped from China in the first place.

Then there is a Swiss expert.

Dr. Emma Hodcroft at the University of Basel in Switzerland studies virus and bacteria changes.

Seasonal influenza viruses cause 10s to 100s of millions of infections every year. While humans develop lasting immunity against particular influenza virus strains, the viruses change rapidly to evade preexisting immunity and reinfect the same individual multiple times. Similarly, the vaccine against seasonal influenza requires frequent updates to match the circulating viruses.

Hodcroft recently tweeted, “As we all grow weary of lockdowns & restrictions, & some case-counts seem to plateau, there’s restlessness towards ending these to limit economic harm & ‘get back to normal’ Let me be very, very clear: There is no cheap or easy way out of this pandemic.”

Hodcroft also tweeted:

 “3 main options:

1. Lift restrictions. Cost = Lives, hospitals, economy.

Skull and crossbones

Money with wings

2. Continue strict restrictions until vaccine. Cost = Economy, society, mental

Money with wings

Slightly frowning face

3. #TestTraceIsolate Cost = Equipment, personpower, organisation



(the hashtag is a spoiler)”.

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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.






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One Thought to “Once Tennessee Economy Reopens, Will State Quarantine Patients, Trace Contacts?”

  1. 83ragtop50

    Next thing you know we will have to show our “papers” at the Walmart entrance. Greeters will become police. Such invasion of personal rights is a deadly path to follow.