This is the daily update from Gov. Bill Lee for April 6.
Statewide, there were 3,802 confirmed cases out of 47,350 total tests to date. There have been 352 hospitalizations and 65 deaths statewide. A total of 356 have recovered.
The Sunday statewide case count was 3,633 and 44 deaths. The Saturday statewide case count was 3,321 and 43 deaths.
The state made 1,000 shipments from FEMA to every county for personal protective equipment. When we find a need, we meet it.
Multiple companies across the state stepped up to give personal protective equipment “to be part of the solution for us.”
Over past 48 hours, the state and nation saw some positive trends. While we have good news, we need to stay vigilant in our efforts. The numbers today are the decisions form 2-3 weeks ago. We still need Tennesseans to stay home if they are able to do so. We need Tennesseans not to change the ways they are staying home, the way they are helping the elderly.
COVID-19 has placed a strain on our rural hospitals especially with elective procedures. Federal guidelines are lagging. We announced $10 million in grants to keep rural and small hospitals open to serve as a gap until federal funding comes.
There is a new grant for local governments for capital needs, safety, COVID019 and tornadoes.
The federal government is giving additional Medicare help to states. We submitted a waiver seeking more money. They said guidance is coming soon for how the CARES Act can cover the uninsured.
We expect the federal government will step forward to partner with us on the issue of uninsured.
Gen. Jeffrey Holmes, National Guard:
There are over 500 military deployed, including state guard and retired military medical personnel. Over 250 have medical specialties. They are helping at 35 rural testing sites.
There will be over 3,000 additional beds set up in the state.
The National Guard has been an important part of assessments at rural sites.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, Tennessee Department of Health:
The state brought up a 45-minute test online, and soon will have a 5-minute test.
The reduction in the rate of the rise: The new case total is coming down. This is not the time to let up on social distancing because it is working.
Deaths: We went from 44 to 65 overnight. That does not mean a bad day yesterday. But it takes time for people to get sicker… it takes about two weeks. So, we’re seeing an increase of hospitalizations and deaths from the uptick a couple of weeks ago. This is going to be a pretty tough week for hospitalizations and deaths.
Gallatin: As we move efforts back to the facility, we are working closely with them. We find their response to be perfectly adequate.
While it is encouraging, we have seen some data moving in the right direction, we have to be committed to not changing in our diligence. It will pass over more quickly if we all stay committed.
Q: Last week a state prison inmate tested positive. How many have tested positive at state facilities and what are the plans?
Piercey: We had one inmate and three staff members test positive. In each case, there was an effort to do contact tracing and make quarantine efforts. We have a few pending tests. We are discussing the use of PPEs.
Q: Sumner County leads the state with 15 deaths. Why?
Piercey: That is a pretty large cluster for a small county. Some portion is from the nursing home; that is why it is important to take care of the vulnerable. Those are 5 or 6 deaths.
Followup: Does the rate in Sumner give you pause?
Piercey: We have not identified any patterns outside of the nursing home. I am not familiar with the demographics of Sumner County.
Q: Every Friday, Georgia identifies which long-term care facilities have cases but Tennessee does not. Why cannot Tennessee?
Piercey: That’s a good question and something we’re working on. We don’t find it a HIPAA violation to release that. It’s a process of collecting that information.
Q: The governor of Arkansas said schools will be closed the rest of the year. Does Tennessee have plans?
Lee: We will assess the situation. We are closed through the end of April and watching the information every day. On Thursday, our commissioner of education will be here to address education.
Q: You spoke about encouraging modeling, including the University of Washington model which assumes full social distancing through May. Are you looking at that expansion?
Lee: We are using that model to inform the decisions we make here in Tennessee. That model changed dramatically in the past week. These models will continue to change and we will continue to follow those changes. The numbers are very encouraging in that model and we will continue to monitor … I’m not in a place where we’re considering changes to the policy, so no, we’re not looking to extend any decisions we’ve made until we deem them appropriate.
Q: You were waiting on guidelines from the federal government for self-employed help; you have them now, and will you follow them? The grant for rural hospitals, will there be a Medicaid expansion?
Lee: We’re looking at how much will be given. Our focus is on the uninsured for COVID-19. We are trying to get an answer on our waiver and we believe they are trying to cover the uninsured. We’re not looking to go beyond that. For unemployment, we have yet to make a decision.
Followup: You’ve spoken about treating the uninsured for the virus, but over 300,000 were uninsured and that is likely to rise. Would you consider using emergency powers to follow 38 states and take “free money” to do a Medicaid expansion so no one will have to worry about insurance?
Lee: We are committed to making sure every Tennessean is covered for the virus and are not considering additional things.
Followup: What would you say to people who are losing insurance?
Lee: We will do everything to provide relief like on unemployment benefits and relief for small businesses to start back up so people can go back to work.
Q: From the travel estimates last week, it looked like travel dropped dramatically on the weekends, rose for work on Monday-Tuesday, and bumped up again, but you said it was resumed to pre-virus levels, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. You used that to justify the stay at home order.
Lee: You saw a consistent drop over several weeks and a dramatic rise, and that was the cause of the stay at home order. We did not get back to those pre-virus levels. We know social distancing works.
Q: Are you seeing any drop since you made the stay at home order? Are you still seeing people gather in areas?
Lee: We saw the traffic patterns reduce again. I’m proud of Tennesseans. The numbers are starting to show improvement. It’s all the more reason we need to double down. We have seen law enforcement step in with certain instances.
Q: Last week when the new cases went down a couple times you said not to take that as a trend, and now you are saying it’s encouraging, so why is it a trend?
Lee: The model by Washington. It looks like it’s beginning to be a trend. It’s not a definitive trend.