NASHVILLE, TN (WLAF) – Wednesday morning’s state conference call was with Gov. Bill Lee and the Unified Command Group assigned to the Coronavirus pandemic.  The call also included the Commissioners of Finance, TEMA, Dept. of Health, National Guard and others.

“The governor assured the legislators they are working on this 24/7 and getting all the information and data available throughout the nation and state. They are in the process of procurement of PPEs (personal protective equipment) for medical workers.  The governor stated that these are going to be very difficult times and hard choices to be made over the next few weeks,” said State Rep. Dennis Powers.

Lee said he wanted to protect the liberties of individuals, but called on them to be responsible during this time. The goal is to slow the spread rapidly and deal with the after effects in a timely manner. He also wants to increase testing and stated that we are one of the top in the nation in testing and leading the South in that area, according to Powers.

“The governor also wants to increase the capacity in three areas.  The first is supplies throughout the entire state, the second is personnel by postponing some medical procedures and acquiring furlough personnel and thirdly, obtaining alternate sites such as convention centers, hotels, etc. if needed for bed space.  He said we need to be prepared for increased need if it arises over the next few weeks based on models from across the country,” Powers said,

“Over 27,000 tests had been performed and the current case count is over 2,200 positive with 23 deaths in Tennessee.  Every county health department in all 95 counties now has the ability to test.  The National Guard also has 35 rural test sites set up in the areas where they are needed most,” Dr. Lisa Piercy, commissioner of health, said.

“We are staying ahead of the curve and all procurement issues are being handled through the local EMA director. They are also procuring additional hospital beds, ventilators, etc. based on models they are receiving, but those are changing hourly and daily and most models appear that the needs are going to increase,” Piercy said.

Those on the call were also told the the guard has deployed 250 guardsmen and were going to increase that to 400, but were not taking any civilian medical workers out of the field.

TEMA’s representative said, “We are working with local EMA’s using the systems to share info and data.  We are working to get ready for when the curve peaks, and we are also procuring medical equipment to be prepared.”

The governor then answered questions the legislators had submitted,

“What is the penalty, if any, for not adhering to the Executive Orders,” Powers said he asked.

“There has not been a huge amount of enforcement, but any should be reported to local law enforcement,” Lee said in response.

“Unemployment claims have gone from 2,000 a week to 70,000 a week, and the system has been overwhelmed with requests.  They are ramping up the efforts to handle all of these as fast as possible,” according  to Lee.

“Supplies have already been shipped to all 95 counties, and they are being processed through the local EMA’s. Personal products are being horded by individuals, and that businesses are limiting amounts, but the hording is causing problems in the supply chains, said Lee.

Ventilators have been supplied to all outpatient surgery centers, according to the governor.  He said, “We hope to get the rapid test kits in the next few days, but there is no guarantee on the shipment dates to the states.  The model from Vanderbilt will be here soon, but all the models we are looking at now show that there will be a surge in the next two to four weeks and we are procuring the beds and capacity to meet that crisis,” said Lee.

“With regard to the stimulus bill, we know that small businesses are hurt the most, and I am going to get us the information on how it will be distributed to our state soon through, DHS, ECD and Workforce Development in the next few days.  It appears now that Tennessee will receive approximately $2.5 billion.  We are not sure of the timing on these funds, but more information will be coming soon,”  Lee said.    (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 04/01/2020-NOON)