NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — In his daily briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Bill Lee said Tennesseans need to do their part to slow the spread of the virus.
“It is personal responsibility that will slow the spread of this virus,” Lee said shortly after taking the podium Thursday afternoon.
The governor said the state is seeing a disproportionate amount of young people testing positive for the coronavirus. The age group with the most confirmed cases: 21 through 30 years old.
“To the young people in Tennessee: It matters what you do out there to attack this virus spread,” Lee said. “Because people are dying in Tennessee as a result of COVID-19 and more people will if we don’t personally address the changes that each one of us need to do.”
The number of coronavirus cases in Tennessee is now approaching a thousand, with the Tennessee Department of Health reporting 957 cases on Thursday, up from 784 reported Wednesday. TDH also reported 76 hospitalizations and three deaths.
Lee touted that the state is testing people at a higher rate per capita than “peer states.” Nearly 15,000 tests have been administered so far according to TDH. But, the governor said that is not good enough and the state is working to ramp up testing. He added that new technology may soon reduce the turnaround time for some tests to as little as 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, unemployment claims are also on the rise as a result of the pandemic. Around 39,000 unemployment claims were filed in Tennessee last week. For perspective, only about 2,700 claims were filed in the week prior. The governor said the number of claims will increase even more in the weeks ahead.
Lee announced a public-private partnership to help employers and employees who have been impacted by the pandemic. Called the “Tennessee Talent Exchange,” the goal of the program is to match out-of-work Tennesseans with employers who urgently need employees, like those in the grocery and retail industries. The program is hosted at Jobs4TN.gov.
Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord said his agency has increased the number of employees working on unemployment claims by 100. He added that other measures are being taken to handle the increase in claims and get benefits to Tennesseans in a quicker manner.
The governor also signed Executive Order 20 on Thursday, which expands the capacity of healthcare workers to meet growing demand. The order loosens restrictions around retired medical professionals to allow them to return to practicing medicine. It allows all licensed providers to use telemedicine and mental health assessments over the telephone. The order suspends continuing education requirements in the medical field.