Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd 4-15-20

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   Covid-19 Testing Increases as New Tests Become Available

   The state of Tennessee continues to make considerable progress increasing the number of Covid-19 tests being performed across our state. As of Friday morning, 59,849 Tennesseans have been tested, with 55,215 negative test results and 4,634 positive tests. This week, the state received 120 Covid-19 rapid result tests. These new tests, which are manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, show a positive Covid-19 result in as little as five minutes and a negative result in about 13 minutes. Once these tests are maximized, this innovative testing technology will reduce the testing backlog on the state’s books. Private providers across Tennessee are also gaining access to these rapid tests, and more are expected to become available soon. 

   Currently, 500 National Guardsmen are working to support 37 assessment sites with a focus on our rural Tennessee communities. New projections this week indicate a flattening of the virus curve as a result of social distancing and observance of CDC guidance. To date, 921 Tennesseans have recovered from the illness. While these new numbers and projections are encouraging, citizens must continue to take additional precautions and remain vigilant in the days and weeks ahead. As of last Friday morning, Tennessee has reported 94 deaths and 505 citizens have been hospitalized.

   Small & Rural Hospital Grants now Available

   Applications for $10 million in small and rural hospital readiness grants are now available to support facilities during the Covid-19 pandemic. Grant funding was announced this week in partnership with the Department of Economic & Community Development and the Department of Finance & Administration. All funds are capped at $500,000 per hospital and are a part of the fiscal year 2020 $150 million Covid-19 health and safety response appropriation.

   State Works to Secure Additional PPE Supplies

   These funds provide temporary resources for facilities facing a financial strain while elective procedures are suspended and federal funds are still being processed.  Tennessee’s Unified Command continues efforts to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for those on the frontlines battling this health emergency. More than 1,300 PPE shipments have already gone out to all 95 Tennessee counties to keep our health care workers safe during this emergency.

   This week, Gov. Lee also signed Executive Order 25, which now postpones elective medical and dental procedures though April 30, 2020. The goal of the order is to preserve additional supplies of PPE, in the event they are needed as resources for the anticipated surge of Covid-19 patients.

   City & County Government Grants Application Process Unveiled

   Before our General Assembly recessed until June 1, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a $39.8 billion budget that included $200 million in city and county government grants. These one-time grants are based on population and will be distributed to every Tennessee county and municipality.

   The grants may be used for road projects, IT upgrades, capital maintenance, utility system upgrades, public safety projects, Covid-19 response, as well as recovery relief for communities impacted by the March 3 tornado outbreak. No county will receive less than $500,000 and no municipality will receive less than $30,000. Additional funding opportunities for Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties are also available through these grants. The application process will go live April 30, 2020, and funding will be available after July 1.

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions during the second half of the 111th General Assembly.