The Centers for Disease Control is providing $10 million for Tennessee to spend on coronavirus COVID-19 efforts.
Gov. Bill Lee made that announcement Wednesday. The funds are being spent on testing, Lee said, but he did not provide specifics. He called Tennessee “a leader” in testing and said the state has tested more people per capita than surrounding states with larger populations.
There are 19 confirmed coronavirus cases in Rutherford County and 784 confirmed cases in Tennessee, with three reported deaths.
The Tennessee Health Department released the updated numbers Wednesday afternoon. There are 53 hospitalizations. The cases are in 51 of Tennessee’s 95 counties.
Lee said he spoke Tuesday with the director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about uninsured Tennesseans and coronavirus-related costs. Lee said he told the TennCare director to request a waiver from CMS to use Medicaid dollars to help those people. U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn support this, he said.
The Department of Human Services is making available $10 million in grants to child care centers, Lee said. The state supports efforts by churches, gyms and nonprofits to open emergency childcare sites, especially to serve children of health care workers, store clerks and so forth. Applicants may apply through the HHS website. HHS is contacting existing childcare centers to see if they need help finding cleaning supplies.
The governor as well as Adjutant Gen. Jeff Holmes of the Tennessee National Guard discussed how the guard is helping with both coronavirus and tornado relief.
Lee also said that FEMA has approved Tennessee’s disaster declaration for all counties affected by the tornadoes: Benton; Carroll; Davidson; Putnam; Smith; and Wilson.
Holmes said the 250 soldiers and airmen who have deployed for coronavirus relief include combat medics, among others. They are working on humanitarian efforts, not law enforcement.
Regarding the tornado work, Holmes said that the Guard has been deployed since March 3. There are 75 Guardsmen in Wilson County removing debris, and they should finish in three days.
A reporter asked Lee about elective abortions being included in the executive order prohibiting elective medical and dental procedures, how Lee defines the term and whether there are enforcement provisions. Lee said the executive order was meant to provide personal protective equipment.
A reporter asked why the Tennessee Department of Health’s coronavirus case numbers are different from cities’ reports, such as Nashville. Dr. Lisa Piercey of TDH said there is a lag in reporting, but the state posts everything it has online at 2 p.m.
Responding to a question about coronavirus parties for young people in Kentucky, Lee said he does not know if any Tennesseans attended. He said young people are “not excluded from risk.”
In response to a question, Piercey said TDH does provide translation of coronavirus warnings into other languages.
Lee said medical supplies are already being sent to rural counties, and rural hospitals are available to use as the need for beds grows.
Lee was asked about cases where people ignore the limit of gatherings on over 10 people and whether that would be enforced. Lee said it could be enforced.