Safer at Home Executive Order Expires, Economic Reboot Officially Begins
Gov. Bill Lee’s Safer at Home Executive Order expired this past week as Tennessee’s phased economic reboot officially began. Plans to safely and swiftly reopen sectors of our economy are currently moving forward.
The Safer at Home Order was originally issued to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19, flatten the virus curve and preserve hospital capacity. The order aimed to reduce an anticipated surge of patients so workers on the frontlines battling this virus would not be overwhelmed.
Restaurants in 89 of our 95 counties began reopening at 50 percent capacity and in accordance with guidance offered through the Economic Recovery Group and the Tennessee Pledge on April 27. Retail shops followed on April 29 at 50 percent capacity and under similar safety measures. On May 1, gyms followed suit, while elective medical procedures also resumed.
These procedures had been postponed since March 23 in order to increase Tennessee’s supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and preserve hospital bed and equipment capacity. Through federal, state, and private sector partnerships, Tennessee has substantially increased its supply of these items, and our health care system is well-positioned to address a possible second wave of Covid patients. Procedures like routine screenings and joint replacements will be included as some of the first elective procedures resuming.
Additional Tennessee Businesses to Reopen Week of May 4
The Economic Recovery Group has also issued guidance for close contact businesses as they prepare to reopen the week of May 4. These businesses include barber shops, hair salons, waxing and nail spas, body-art facilities, as well as tanning and massage therapy establishments. These entities must operate at half capacity, by appointment only and utilize social distancing practices. All workstations at these facilities must be placed six feet apart, and waiting areas are to remain closed at this time. All industry employees and their customers must also wear face coverings and take other precautions to ensure safe environments.
Dental facilities are also scheduled to resume operations on May 6 with non-emergency procedures including hygiene visits, cosmetic and other elective procedures. Dentists, oral surgeons, and other service providers are still allowed to perform emergency procedures, including pain treatment, swelling, or addressing abscesses. These reopenings will occur in 89 of our 95 counties, with Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan Counties establishing their own dates and criteria, based upon input from their local health departments.
Tennessee Continues to Increase Testing to Align with Federal Recommendations
As more businesses continue to reopen, the state is further coordinating efforts to test more Tennesseans for the Covid-19 virus. This past week, it was announced the state had already met testing levels recommended by the Trump Administration, and that testing efforts would only become more robust in the weeks ahead. For the month of April, Tennessee performed 177,626 tests, meeting the federal two percent recommendation set forth by the president.
Pop up testing will continue this weekend at sites across Tennessee. Citizens can also get tested Monday-Friday at any rural county health department, free of charge and regardless of traditional Covid-19 symptoms. Antibody testing is expected to come online soon, as plans move forward to test 10,000 Tennessee health care workers with this testing. The Food & Drug Administration continues to approve this form of testing, which utilizes blood samples to determine whether a person has previously been exposed to and has fought off a virus. These antibody tests will help medical experts potentially better understand the behavioral patterns of the Covid-19 virus, whether individuals may develop immunity, and they could also play a role in determining future health strategies.
Widespread Covid testing of the more than 700 long-term care facilities across our state has also begun. Our nursing home and assisted living facilities are home to more than 70,000 of our most vulnerable citizens. As of last Friday morning, there were 10,735 cases of Covid-19 in Tennessee, of which 5,338 have recovered. The virus has led to the hospitalization of 1,045 citizens, and the deaths of 199 Tennesseans.
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 email@example.com. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, concerns, and suggestions during the second half of the 111th General Assembly.