Bill Lee March 19

This is the daily coronavirus update from the Tennessee Department of Health and Gov. Bill Lee.

There are 154 confirmed coronavirus cases in Tennessee, including several minors, according to the Department of Health.

Gov. Bill Lee’s comments:

“I’m encouraged to see individuals step out; I’m encouraged to see businesses find alternative ways for employees to stay safe.”

He praised businesses for being creative. Dollar General set aside a time for seniors to shop, and Corsair Distillery switched production from spirits to create hand sanitizer.

Lee asked the Small Business Administration to offer loans of $2 million per small business or non-profit.

The state purchased 570 ventilators purchased yesterday. They had 537 unused ventilators before that.

“We’re continuing to pursue ventilators.”

On a conference call with President Donald Trump today, Lee said, the president said the federal government is helping states gain access to tens of thousands of ventilators around the nation. The president asked centers to stop elective medical procedures to free up capacity.

Medical centers in the state have about 15,000 licensed unused beds and 12,000 hospitalized beds that are occupied.

The president said the federal government lessened restrictions to allow the use of industrial-grade masks to be used in medical centers.

Lee said he signed Executive Order 15 that frees up departments to respond to the coronavirus and expand healthcare capacity. The regulation will allow more beds to qualify for coronavirus patients and loosen healthcare worker license regulations to let more of them treat patients. The order urges the use of telemedicine. HIPAA regulations are being loosened to allow services to be provided over Facetime. There will be new penalties on price gouging.

States are asking for an extension on the REAL ID driver’s licenses and we are looking at an extension on driver’s licenses renewals.

Dr. Lisa Piercey, Health Department commissioner:

The higher case number is due to having more testing take place.

Of the 154 cases, half are from Davidson County. There are 16 hospitalizations we are aware of but no deaths. Our website has a remote assessment site.

Not everyone will be tested. Priority includes healthcare workers and people over 65.

Jeff Long, commissioner of Department of Safety & Homeland Security:

Driver’s license renewal requirements being suspended so most people do not have to come to DMVs. You can renew license online at tn.gov/safety.

Having a new photograph for the license is waived until Oct 1. Non-U.S. citizens will have to appear in person to renew.

Licenses, permits, photo ID and handgun carry permits that expire March 12 to May 20 will be extended six months. The department will mail you letter of extension and you must carry it.

They are deep cleaning driver service centers

An employee will be at the entrance to limit the number of customers per DMV. They encourage customers to wait in vehicles and use e-ticket to text you time to enter. Use credit cards to avoid handling cash.

Response to questions

Tennessee National Guard: The state has asked to use them to work with us to create a plan to staff testing centers and use medical personnel to help process testing and maybe treatment. Governors are seeking flexibility in funding guard deployments.

“We don’t anticipate the need to keep the peace,” Lee said in response to a question as to whether the Guard will be deployed.

“We have a stable and secure food supply chain,” Lee said about grocery stores. Panic buying and hoarding temporarily disrupts that.

Will Lee push for abortion restrictions and open carry when the Legislature resumes on June 1? Lee said any legislation that was in process will resume after the pending recess.

A lot of funding in the budget was cut but it is for ensuring fiscal stability for the state.

Are young people not practicing social distancing? Lee said that is a national trend. Young people may not get sick or extremely ill, they can spread the coronavirus to others who are vulnerable.

The Murfreesboro Post asked whether county cases are listed by county of residence or where the testing takes place. A health department official said the county-by-county cases are listed by the patients’ county of residence.

Following the Post’s question, Lee addressed concerns that the state has not required private labs to report the number of negative test results. Lee said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to know how many people the states have tested.

“So, we have been requested to start the process of retrieving negative test information along with positive tests. It will take some time for us to move to that.”

Experts had been saying negative tests did not provide meaningful data but they are beginning to believe that tracking state testing can help identity how the disease moves through the country. Reaching out to the labs will take some time.

Piercey refused to provide a reporter with any information on the case in Cumberland County.

Here are the affected counties:

Campbell: 1

Cheatham: 1

Cumberland: 1

Davidson: 75

Dyer: 1

Hamilton: 1

Jefferson: 1

Knox: 2

Montgomery: 1

Robertson: 2

Rutherford: 1

Sevier: 1

Shelby: 4

Sullivan: 1

Sumner: 3

Williamson: 30

Wilson: 1

Residents of other states/countries: 26

Unknown: 1

Here are the ages. Some may not be known yet:

Ages 0-10: 2

11-20: 9

21-30: 43

31-40: 32

41-50: 24

51-60: 18

61-70: 10

71-80: 8

80-plus: 8

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