NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee confirmed the first case of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, within the state of Tennessee at a press conference Thursday morning.
The impacted patient is a 44-year-old man from Williamson County who is currently isolated at home with mild symptoms. He traveled out of state recently, but not out of the country, and returned four or five days ago.
A spokesperson with the Tennessee Department of Health said the man traveled on a nonstop, round-trip flight between Boston, Massachusetts and Nashville International Airport.
“As of last night, we have our first confirmed case of COVID 19 in Tennessee,” explained Gov. Lee.
“Tennessee was one of the first first states to begin COVID 19 testing and we continue to remain confident in our ability to prevent the spread of this infection in our state. We are actively engaged in our COVID 19 task force,” said Gov. Lee.
“While this is a serious situation, I urge Tennesseans to keep this illness in perspective as the vast majority of cases or mild and manageable.”
The Tennessee Department of Health state public health laboratory first tested the coronavirus patient on Wednesday.
“While we are saddened to learn that this virus has now reached Tennessee, we are positioned to respond swiftly,” said Tennessee Department of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey.
“We are now working with the CDC to locate this person’s contacts and contain the spread in our community. The overall risk is low,” continued Dr. Piercey.
Most patients with COVID 19 have a mild respiratory illness including fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The Tennessee Department of Health strongly encourages Tennesseans to wash your hands often with soap and water and to not touch eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
“It has been a difficult week for a state in a lot of ways. People are suffering — just beginning to recover — dealing with the effects of the tornadoes and now this news about the coronavirus. This preparedness is how we deal with situations like this. It’s already been evident that the preparedness for the storms,” said Gov. Lee.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Wednesday activated a task force to coordinate the state’s efforts to prevent and treat coronavirus.
The move comes after Tennessee’s top officials recently warned the state will likely soon see its cases of COVID-19 as the disease continues to spread. To date, no one in Tennessee has tested positive for coronavirus.
Lee’s office says the task force will oversee precautionary measures, resource allocation, emergency response plans should the need arise.
Members include Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn and Nashville International Airport CEO Doug Kreulen.
Other members range from representatives from Amazon, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Hospital Association, AARP Tennessee and the Tennessee Farm Bureau.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized Tennessee to begin testing for coronavirus, but state health officials say testing supplies are low.
As of Wednesday, more than 120 cases have been reported in the U.S. and 11 people have died, 10 in Washington state and one in California. Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 90,000 people and caused more than 3,100 deaths, most of them in China.