This is a summary of a press conference streamed live Wednesday by Gov. Bill Lee on COVID-19 and race relations. Nursing homes will open to visitors on Monday.
Tennessee has 27,575 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, up 631 in one day. 18,013 recovered, up 450 in one day. There are 435 deaths, up 14 in one day. 1,974 have been hospitalized, up 26 in one day. 521,197 have been tested, up 8,434 in one day.
Uptick in cases in COVID-19: These in last week have seen an uptick, which is not unexpected with folks moving around more. It’s important to follow this data, not only the cases but the very important data point of hospital capacity, and fortunately it’s very stable.
One of the reasons we got to the place where we could reopen our economy is because Tennesseans did what helps to mitigate the spread: Wash hands, staying home when sick, getting a test, wearing a mask. We continued distribution of our masks – the EPA reported and made sure those are safe, so we resumed distribution.
Every long-term care resident will have been tested by this Friday. We have a process for repeat testing for staff members. Today, I signed an executive order to allow them to open to visitors starting Monday with safety protocols.
We want to work with employers to have employees tested as they return to their workplaces. We are testing state workers who are returning. Our Unified Command Group can arrange pop-up tests at companies – check our website.
Dr. Kimberly Lamar, Department of Health, on minority outreach:
As we pursue justice, it’s more important than ever to maintain health in our communities. COVID-19 has impacted minorities, especially blacks and Latinos. The department seeks equitable and accessible health care for all Tennesseans.
Our task force has addressed mental health, seniors’ needs and COVID testing efforts. We are addressing these and other barriers. We launched PSAs and are using social media.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of Health:
Nursing home visitation guidelines: It is the most vulnerable population. No later than July 1, staff will start being re-tested.
Their social well-being is important. Facilities must be in counties with lower case counts and meet other criteria.
Reporters in the briefing room asked questions. Reporters did not have mics, so their questions were not audible on the livestream.
Piercey: There was an uptick in activity around the Memorial Day holiday and people moving around, but we cannot link that to protests.
It’s really important we have more dialogue, and not less.
Criminal justice reform is important to me. Our reform was making its way through the Legislature and has costs associated, so we decided as with most issues with costs, because of economic conditions, to withdraw it. I expect we will make progress.
I have not looked into historical commissions, but those community leaders should engage in dialogue especially on topics that are particularly important right now.
(Regarding bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Capitol): There’s a process to this. I’m not entirely the person responsible for that process, but something should be done. His role in history is painful to African-Americans in this state, so something should happen to that bust. There will be a process to determine that – not entirely up to me.
Until I’ve had conversations with black leaders and I engage in dialogue…if I learned anything over the last two weeks, my experiences don’t define the path forward. It’s important not to draw lines and choose sides. These answers are complicated. I would sit down with those who advocate keeping it, and those who advocate against it. One of the challenges for us is that issues become divisive, and it’s counter-productive to progress. We must come together and have dialogue.
Nursing home specifics, according to a press release:
Facilities that choose to re-open to visitors must first meet the following prerequisites:
• Testing of all staff and residents at least once, and compliance with applicable regulations regarding weekly staff re-testing;
• No new COVID-19 case in residents or staff members in the previous 28 days;
• Compliant with Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities regulations and infection control guidelines;
• Overall stability of the disease burden present in the community where the facility is located.
“Our hope is to balance the need for social interaction at long-term care facilities with providing a safe environment for residents, staff, and visitors,” said Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP, Tennessee Department of Health. “We will monitor the implementation of this visitation plan closely, knowing we may need to revert to more protective measures if we start seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases at facilities.”
Long-term care facilities who meet the prerequisites and allow limited visitation must follow guidelines, which include:
• Making appointments prior to visiting and limiting the duration of visits;
• Limiting the number of visitors per resident and daily visitors per facility;
• Enforcing visitor social distancing and mask requirements; and,
• Screening all visitors with symptom and temperature checks immediately upon facility entry.
Long-term care facilities may utilize three options for limited resident visitation to take place:
• In an outdoor setting, weather permitting;
• Using a visitation booth or protective barrier; and,
• A resident’s room if the visitor documents a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to the visit.
Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG) has called upon the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the university’s Social Work Office of Research and Public Service (SWORPS) to assist in the collection and analysis of survey data. The group will conduct surveys every other week throughout the summer to track citizens’ sense of safety and economic well-being as the state reopens. The first round of data was released online Wednesday at core19.utk.edu.