Reopening Tennessee: ‘Appropriate elective medical procedures’ to resume May 1


Officials reveal plans for antibody testing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- In a news briefing Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee gave the green light for hospitals across the Volunteer State to resume “appropriate elective medical procedures” on Friday, May 1.

Lee said the first wave of approved procedures include routine screenings and joint replacements.

The Tennessee Hospital Association endorsed the guidelines, President and CEO Dr. Wendy Long said as she detailed some of the guidelines for hospitals to begin phasing in elective procedures.

“Hospitals have been in resource conservation mode since the beginnin of the crisis” to ensure there would be enough resources to address a potential surge of COVID-19 patients, Long said, adding that hospitals now face the financial burden of withholding elective procedures.

Lee also said that businesses that begin opening this week are asked to take the ‘Tennessee Pledge’ to operate in a way that promotes the health and safety of employees and customers.

There isn’t a mandate to sign the plans, and Lee gave no indication that it would be enforced.

“We actually think that customers are not going to want to walk into a restaurant that isn’t safe,” he said, later adding, “We will certainly watch and see how Tennessee businesses respond.

“We trust this process, we know that it will be one that works for Tennesseans.”

Commissioner of Health Dr. Lisa Piercey addressed questions about antibody testing and it’s future within the state.

The nasal swab tests that are in current use can track an active infection, she said, but an antibody test is a blood test that can track cells that came into contact with the virus after the infection subsides.

She said antibody testing is just getting off the ground, and of the 90 antibody tests on the market, only six have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

She said it’s important to use an approved antibody test because other tests my give false results. She explained that the virus that causes COVID-19 is part of a larger family of viruses – some that cause a common gold.

An unapproved antibody test can mix up the novel coronavirus with a different one and yield a misleading result.

She said that it’s too early to tell if everyone who contracts COVID-19 develops the antibodies for it, and if they did scientists aren’t sure if that would grant someone immunity or how long that immunity would last.

Piercey said the state has two plans for antibody testing: To send an alert to medical providers throughout the state with the technical details on the limitations of those tests, and a plan to roll out antibody testing to 10,000 healthcare workers working in public teaching hospitals across the state.

You can watch the entire news briefing on our WJHL Facebook page below.

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