Lee urges continuation of social distancing as curve begins to flatten

State to dedicate $10 million to small and rural hospitals

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Gov. Bill Lee (copy)

Gov. Bill Lee said Monday, despite the recent trend of slower growth of COVID-19 in Tennessee, residents should continue their social distancing and self-isolation efforts to continue to flatten the curve.

After seeing the rate of growth of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tennessee slow over the last week, leading to a flattened projection model, Gov. Bill Lee credits the state’s social distancing practices and urges residents to continue these efforts.

“While we have received some good news, we need to stay vigilant in our efforts,” he said Monday. “Social distancing works, and the improvements in numbers that we’re seeing today are the result of decisions that we made two and three weeks ago. We still need Tennesseans to remain home if they’re able to do so in spite of encouraging information.”

As of 2 p.m. Monday, the Tennessee Department of Health has reported 3,802 cases of COVID-19 — 260 in Williamson County — and 65 deaths statewide. Over the last five days, the daily growth averaged just under 224 cases.

A new model from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, a model the governor has said has informed some of his decisions, also shows a significantly less dramatic curve than just one week ago.

As of March 30, the model predicted a shortage of 420 ventilators in Tennessee, a figure which has been halved to 208. The state is also expected to reach a peak in resource use on April 18 and have a total of 587 deaths due to the virus.

However, the governor encouraged residents that "data changes every day" and to not lighten up on efforts to further flatten the curve.

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said that there is now one lab in the state capable of running a 45-minute test, and the state will soon have five-minute testing available as well.

Piercey explained that, while the numbers of new cases have begun to slow, the number of fatalities have begun to ramp up, referencing the nearly 50% increase in reported coronavirus-related deaths between Sunday and Monday.

“That doesn’t mean that we had a particularly bad day yesterday,” she said. “It means that the time it takes for people to get sick and then … ultimately succumb to the disease — that takes about two weeks. … We’re starting to see the increase in hospitalizations and death from the swift uptick that we had a couple of weeks ago.”

Piercey, too, asked residents to continue their social distancing and self-isolation efforts.

“What you’re doing is working,” she said. “Please keep it up. This is not the time to let up on those efforts. This is the time to keep pushing forward.”

Lee also shared that the state Emergency Management Agency has made more than 1,000 shipments to Tennessee counties with personal protective equipment to continue to protect medical workers, and the state is dedicating $10 million in grants to keep small and rural hospitals open.

For more information from the state department of health, visit tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html.

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