Tennessee prepares to reopen as cities remain cautious on Gov. Lee’s reopening goal

Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee is preparing to reopen many businesses as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state stands at more than 7,000 with more than 100,000 people tested and 157 deaths.

An estimated 3,800 people in the state have recovered from COVID-19.

Governor Bill Lee said social distancing has worked and believes Tennessee is at a place where the economy can start to reopen. The White house’s criteria to reopen includes a 14-day downward trend in number of positive COVID-19 cases but Tennessee hasn’t met these requirements yet.

News 2’s Chris Bungaard pressed the state on this topic during Tuesday’s briefing.

“We have been watching that closely, there is a very clear statistical trend of a downward trajectory over the last 18 days,” explained Commissioner of State Department of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey.

“Looking at it, it was an actual decline in the number of cases over 14 days instead of a decline in the increased number of cases?” asked Bundgaard.

“That’s a good question because you have to keep that in context with your denominator of testing,” answered Dr. Piercey. “The response is you have to keep it in context of the amount of testing you are doing. In theory, hypothetically, we could artificially reduce that number by reducing that number of tests. We only do five tests tomorrow and one is positive, we only have one confirmed case. But because we are expanding our testing by leaps and bounds, that’s when you have to look at rates. Yesterday we added about 7,500 tests, but less than 200 of them were positive,” said Dr. Piercey.

Some restrictions will remain in place — no social gatherings of 10 or more and visitors will be restricted at nursing homes and hospitals.

While parts of Tennessee start to reopen, Nashville will remain closed a little while longer as city leaders continue to evaluate the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said he hopes Nashville can start reopening in early May — but in phases.

Cooper explained he understands people want to get back to work, but it will all depend on the data.

Phase one includes the reopening of retail and commercial businesses and restaurants with safety guidelines in place. The four requirements to reopen include the rate of transmission of less than one, a 14-day downward trend in new COVID-19 cases, adequate testing and personal protective equipment, hospital capacity and resources to conduct contact tracing investigations.

“Remember a balanced approach is essential in re-opening our economy and cannot come at the cost of our hard-earned progress in flattening the curve of COVID-19. Your efforts will largely determine the end of the safer-at-home order,” said Mayor Cooper.

The plan has three more phases which will only start if the data starts showing positive signs during the 14-day period.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued an order Tuesday to extend a so-called safer-at-home order by seven days, until May 5. Shelby County, which includes Memphis, has seen more than 1,800 cases and 39 deaths.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said Monday evening that if that city continues to see a “flattening of the curve,” she supports reopening the economy and gradually lifting restrictions “based on data, not dates.”

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said Monday he will continue to consult experts and make a decision that’s best locally. The county that includes Chattanooga, meanwhile, is looking to reopen on May 1, and wants its cities to follow suit, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Tuesday.

COVID-19 in Tennessee

(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST )

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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