Tennessee COVID-19 data

Gov. Bill Lee announced the state will start reporting critical COVID-19 data including the number of deaths by county.

Lee acknowledged that there have been questions on the failure to report the deaths by county.

Also, the state has 2,239 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 23 deaths and 175 hospitalizations as of Tuesday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported Tuesday. Those numbers compare to Monday's totals of: 13 deaths, 1,834 cases in the state and 148 hospitalizations.

Lee said there are “strong efforts” to combat COVID-19 

The information he is giving out to the public empowers people.

“Together we will overcome the challenges that are before us,” Lee said.

The safer at home order goes into effect Tuesday night. The order allows for “essential” businesses to remain open and gives people less reason to leave home for two weeks. People who can stay home should to save lives.

Don’t hoard; communicate in different ways.

To small business owners: “This was one of the most difficult decisions I made.” They are bearing the brunt of safer at home. “I feel that.” He commits as a former small business owner, there are resources that will be available and vowed to do everything he can to help them re-open.

On mental health: One day had eight suicides in Knox County in one day. COVID-19 can produce hopelessness in people losing jobs. People who need behavioral health services…the state has expanded services.

Yesterday HHS said it gave the state a grant to provide mobile units for mental health services.

855-CRISIS-1 is a crisis line.

PPEs for healthcare workers: Two-dozen companies donated equipment. Along with procurement process has provided PPEs for every county.

Businesses that want to produce PPEs should contact Launch Tennessee.

New daily features coming by end of the week: negative results by county, projected number patients who recovered, and deaths by county.

Other comments by officials:

Child care: Child care centers are open; the state relaxed licensing requirements but the state is providing technical assistance. Grants are available for supplies, cleaning products or more staff. There is a registration process for emergency centers. The state is providing limited background checks on workers at the emergency centers and denied one person from operating a center because of a previous drug charge.

Responses to questions:

Question on the deaths at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing, more information including how the disease was introduced there. Lee said it was a “tragic situation” and the state is trying to prevent those types of situations in the future. Dr. Lisa Piercey of TDH SAID she spoke to the administrator and the state does not have all the death certificates yet; three residents have died. Tracing contacts is on-going and many people needed are in the hospital.

Has Lee spoken to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear on his criticism of Tennessee’s response? Lee said he speaks to governors almost daily on coronavirus responses. “it’s a great resource to me and to one another.” He has not specifically spoken to Kentucky’s governor. Follow-up question: Do you have any response to him? Lee said, “I’m really focused on Tennessee and how we aggressively test here … challenges are unique.”

Safer at home: How can people report non-essential businesses? Lee said there have been similar measures in some cities already “and the response of Tennesseans has been powerful” and not much non-compliance. The state will monitor compliance.

Question: Respond to criticism the state has been slow to respond to the need of the vulnerable like the Gallatin nursing home and what steps are you taking specifically? Lee said with Gallatin, in 24 hours the state began evacuating the nursing home and seeing how many needed to be evacuated. “The response of the state was swift and certain.” Piercey said there have been “significant steps” taken for long-term care facilities like guidance given to make it immediately reportable when a staff member or patient becomes positive. Most are doing this already. This is a mandate. Also, which helped with Gallatin, the state can do mass testing.

Question: Shelby County is surrounded by Mississippi and Arkansas, which do not have as strict guidelines as Tennessee. Has Lee tried to get them to tighten up? Lee said he spoke to both governors … “like with Kentucky, I want to offer help to those governors, I’m certainly not going to criticize them.” Tennessee tests 3 times as more people as Kentucky. Tennessee has denser-populated cities than Kentucky.

Question: Can Lee elaborate on the U.S. Health Department mobile care units? What are these and how can people access them? Why are they in East and West Tennessee and not Middle Tennessee? Piercey said the grant was approved three months ago based on projected needs at the time for rural counties.

Question: You searched for discernment on when to issue something like shelter in place, and the medical community days ago asked for shelter in place. Lee said he commended the medical community whose members “are putting themselves at risk.” He sought input from healthcare specialists, who have widely differing opinions, and there is a lack of data on what produces results. “You get a lot of input which is quite varying” from medical providers. “We tried to determine the right time to do this. You can’t do this for an unlimited time period.” The time when the curve is right in Tennessee is the time to do it, to flatten the curve.

Follow-up: Were lives lost from the delay? Lee said the state made the right timing. “We’ll probably know in the aftermath. I’m deeply concerned about the lives of every single Tennessean.”

Question: What changed for releasing more data like county by county deaths? Lee said, “We want to be as transparent as possible. The more Tennesseans know…data that is pertinent the more we want to give it to them.” The death data, different states are empowered by HIPAA different ways. Some categories require states like Tennessee to follow legal decision and path that was prohibited. “We pushed.” Some requests were granted to make it happen.

Piercey said, “We want to be as transparent as possible while giving accurate and appropriate information.” HIPAA is one consideration; another is a lot of data recorded by external entities so stat is at their mercy for timing and accurate. New data today reporting negative by county, it’s almost complete; that gives a better denominator to tell about access. State now has number of recovered cases to track over time how many people get well vs. active infections. The low number reflects early cases. Deaths will be by end of week.

In other news:

On Monday, each member of Tennessee’s congressional delegation sent President Donald Trump a letter backing up a request Lee made to the White House asking for extra federal assistance under the nation’s disaster relief laws to respond to the pandemic.

The letter says in part, “This disaster has already, and will continue to place a significant financial burden on the State, local government, and impacted individuals. Governor Lee has already issued seven Executive Orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including issuing a State of Emergency, deploying 300 members of the Tennessee National Guard to support testing, forming a Coronavirus Task Force to lead Tennessee’s response, prohibiting gatherings of 10 people or more, and prohibited non-essential medical procedures. Additionally, 25 counties and 34 individual cities have also declared a local state of emergency and while schools are closed the Tennessee Department of Education has established 800 sites across the state where children can receive two meals a day.

“However, Tennessee needs additional resources. Governor Lee has submitted a request for Public and Individual Assistance, Hazard Mitigation, and approval to federally fund the deployment of Tennessee National Guard members in support of Tennessee’s COVID-19 response, under Title 32.”

The full letter is available on the website of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander here: https://www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=B53585B5-69AE-4171-A988-2132D2802A94

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