Tenn. Gov. Bill Lee recommends schools remain closed through end of academic year


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced his recommendation for schools to remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Lee’s recommendations follow his extension of Tennessee’s stay-at-home order that he announced on Monday.

Lee said he appointed Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn to develop a child well-being task force to provide support to communities to check on children throughout the state.

“Time lost in the classroom also has implications beyond academics and those implications are often the well-being of children,” Lee said. “Schools and teachers are often the front lines in caring for students, particularly those that are in difficult situations, those that are most vulnerable, those that are most at-risk.”

Schwinn said the task force will be formed in the next few weeks, and said it will “encourage and support locally-lead innovations and partnerships to check on children and make sure they are safe and well.”

Lee said he will consent with the legislature when determining any adjustments to the academic calendar next year and promised that efforts are in place to ensure the state will continue providing resources to keep students engaged over the coming weeks.

Lee and Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey also announced expansions in COVID-19 testing across the state. Starting this weekend, the National Guard will begin operating weekend drive-through clinics in different counties in the state for tests.

In addition, Piercey said the state has relaxed the criteria for getting a COVID-19 test beyond what she called the “traditional” COVID-19 symptoms of a fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“If you think you need a test, we will test you,” she said.

A schedule of testing sites can be found here.

Sites in our region include:

  • April 18 – Hawkins County at Volunteer High School, 1050 Volunteer St., Church Hill from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • April 19 – Washington County at East Tennessee State University, 1276 Gilbreath Drive, Johnson City from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Piercey stressed these capabilities are also available at state health departments throughout the week, adding that part of the reason for the weekend clinics is to extend the service to essential workers who may not be available to test throughout the week.

Officials expressed confidence in the number of tests to be able to expand the service. Piercey said testing capability isn’t unlimited, but she said hours and manpower needed to process the tests will limit testing capability more than the number of tests will.

Lee credited his administration’s resourcefulness in acquiring enough materials for testing, citing the private sector in being able to supply enough tests for Tennessee to expand its capacity.

Lee’s next press conference will begin tomorrow at 4 p.m. EST.

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

This is a developing story, check back for updates on WJHL.com

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