Tennessee General Assembly Amends Bill to Maintain Health Commissioner, County Health Officers’ Emergency Rule, Quarantine and Closure Power

The General Assembly struck provisions removing exclusive health emergency-related powers from the health commissioner and county health officials. The bill originally proposed to create a commission to make decisions on whether or not to exercise those powers. The new commission would’ve included the governor, the speakers of the State House and Senate, each constitutional officer, and the commissioner of health – or, any designees selected by those officials.

Those provisions were dropped without explanation from either the House or Senate floor as to why. The Tennessee Star inquired with the sponsors what happened. The House sponsor, State Representative Glen Casada, (R-Franklin) divulged that the House Health Committee opposed it. He didn’t go into further detail in his statement to The Star.

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Tennessee Department of Health Launches COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Website

In order to register for the COVID-19 vaccine, personal information such as full name, date of birth, address, email, phone number, gender, race, and ethnicity will be required. These details are requested via the questionnaire on an updated COVID-19 vaccine registration website recently launched by the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH).

Users are also asked to confirm if they work or volunteer in certain environments, live with certain high-risk conditions, suffered past allergic reactions to any substance, received passive antibody therapy for COVID-19 in the last 90 days or any vaccinations in the previous two weeks, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or were currently or previously sick with COVID-19.

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Tennessee Health Officials Warn of COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) warned individuals about scammers attempting to sell COVID-19 vaccines or spots on the vaccine wait list. The messaging was addressed to all Tennesseans, but heavily emphasized relaying the warning to the elderly.

TDH listed several common tactics they’d learned were being solicited by door-to-door scammers. These scams encouraged individuals to issue a payment in order to obtain the vaccine, placement on a vaccine priority list, and early access to the vaccine.

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Tennessee Reports 90 Percent Decrease in Flu Cases Between Last Weeks of 2019 and 2020; Yet COVID Cases Increased

Despite COVID-19 cases spiking around the same time, Tennessee experienced a marked decrease in flu cases last month. Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) data sets from the last week of 2019 and 2020 revealed a 90 percent decrease in overall flu cases. The end of December registered a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, near the all-time high in the state’s positivity rates.

TDH recorded over 6,700 flu cases in the final week of 2019, as compared to just over 600 during the last week of 2020. Last month, the percentage of individuals with flu-like illnesses visiting the reporting healthcare sites was exactly 2 percent; the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) baseline for Tennessee sits at around 3 percent. According to the CDC, two or more consecutive weeks that fall under 2 percent reporting constitutes a “non-influenza week.”

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Governor Lee Extends State of Emergency Through End of Year

Governor Bill Lee has officially extended the state of emergency for the remainder of 2020.
The executive order followed Lee’s own quarantine due to exposure from the coronavirus. The extension of the order means that Tennessee will receive further federal funding, mayors can continue to implement their own guidelines, and government officials can continue to meet virtually.

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