Coronavirus live blog, April 28: Watch interview with Shantelle Leatherwood

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 08, 2020 8:37 AM CT | Published: April 28, 2020 9:46 AM CT

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You can protect yourself and help prevent the spread of coronavirus by:

  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid close contact (within six feet) with people
  • Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean

To view the city’s stay-at-home order, click here.

Here’s the latest from Memphis and Shelby County, below, when it comes to dealing with the novel coronavirus. To view our full coverage, check out The Daily Memphian’s coronavirus landing page.

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April 28, 2020

Watch exclusive interview with Shantelle Leatherwood

5:49 PM CT, April 28

Eric Barnes interviews the Shantelle Leatherwood, CEO of Christ Community Health Services.

Watch below:

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Increased numbers of cases at The Village at Germantown

7:02 PM CT, April 28

The Village at Germantown has a total of 18 people who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Tuesday evening, the facility reported nine residents and nine staff have tested positive. Four of those residents have died.

The Germantown long-term care facility has about 325 residents.

The facility has increased testing among its employees. As of Friday 42 employees had been tested and half of the tests were negative. At that time only five staff members were positive.

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Federal funds to cover uninsured

4:52 PM CT, April 28

Tennessee is set to received a total of $3.6 billion in federal funds to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, about $1.3 billion of which is restricted for federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

A portion of the $2.3 billion the state is supposed to direct toward the emergency will be used to cover the cost of treatment for uninsured Tennesseans who catch COVID-19, the governor said. The state also remains committed to using $30 million set aside for TennCare to supplement the federal funding, the governor said.

Healthcare providers who treat the uninsured will be able to file claims with the federal government and be reimbursed for services on or after Feb. 4, according to the governor.

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State will work with Shelby County leaders on reopening plan

3:39 PM CT, April 28

Gov. Bill Lee says he doesn’t believe he will have to step in and ask Shelby County to reopen its economy. He said the Economic Recovery Group is working with Shelby County leaders to determine a time frame and plan for restarting the economy.

”We expect complementary plans over the next few weeks,” he said. “It’s a hypothetical (that I would need to intervene), and I don’t think it will happen.”

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Tennessee Pledge asks businesses to open with safe environment for employees

3:21 PM CT, April 28

The Tennessee Pledge asks businesses to open with an environment safe for their employees, Gov. Bill Lee said, and businesses can put a poster in their window showing they’re taking the Tennessee Pledge.

”While many Tennesseans start the process of returning to work, every business in Tennessee has the responsibility to create a safe workplace,” Lee said.

Gyms will be allowed to reopen in 89 of the state’s 95 counties beginning Friday, May 1. The counties excluded are those with locally-run health departments: Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan.

Gyms can open with reduced capacity of 50%. But close communal spaces such as athletic courts, locker room, swimming pools and self-service areas like juice bars and coffee stations will remain closed.

Fitness classes will also reduce by 50%, use social distancing and remove shared equipment.

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Watch Gov. Bill Lee’s press briefing live

3:19 PM CT, April 28

Watch Gov. Bill Lee’s daily coronavirus press briefing here:

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Federal funds can be used to treat uninsured with coronavirus

3:13 PM CT, April 28

Federal funds can be used to treat the uninsured with COVID-19 illness.

Funding for the state includes $2.3 billion and increases to the federal programs in the state, a total of $3.6 billion.

“We have to align that spending with the priorities we’ve laid out,” Gov. Bill Lee said.

A portion of these federal funds will be used to address the costs for COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured. The state remains committed to using $30 million in state funding through TennCare to supplement federal funds.

Health care providers treating the uninsured can file claims with the federal government and reimbursed for treatment provided on or after Feb. 4.

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Regional One Health cuts salaries, other costs in COVID crisis

3:14 PM CT, April 28

Regional One Health, the safety-net hospital for the region, last week cut pay 10% for all salaried workers, including executives and doctors and nurses caring for COVID-19 patients, as it tries to navigate the crisis without furloughing staff.


Methodist cuts executive pay, furloughs staff


“While we have done the responsible things to prepare Regional One Health for COVID-19, this preparation has taken a toll on our financial situation as elective surgeries were canceled and outpatient visits are down,” Dr. Reginald Coopwood, president and CEO, said in a statement.

The cuts went into effect April 26.

Read More

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Memphis to get $113.6M from federal CARES Act

2:47 PM CT, April 28

The city of Memphis will get $113.6 million from the federal CARES Act.

City chief financial officer Shirley Ford told council members the specific number Tuesday, April 28, during a council executive session. The administration is preparing a resolution for the council to formally accept the federal funding for the city.

During a Tuesday morning press conference, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen said the city is still seeking specific federal funding in a coming stimulus supplement that the city would specifically be allowed to use to make up for a loss in city revenues.

Previous versions of the proposal would have required the city to specifically use that new round of funding for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic and not a loss in revenues. Cohen said the terms of the bill are in flux. And after the press conference, Cohen’s office said Congress’s expected return to Washington to consider that has been delayed from a return to the capital next week.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has estimated the city will lose $23 million revenues in the current fiscal year and another $80 million in the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

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State releases guidance for gyms set to open Friday

2:44 PM CT, April 28

Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group announced guidance Tuesday, April 28, for gyms and exercise facilities on how to reopen safely.

Gyms will be allowed to reopen in 89 of the state’s 95 counties beginning Friday, May 1. The counties excluded are those with locally-run health departments: Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan.

“Exercise is incredibly important for the physical and mental health of our population, and we want Tennesseans to have access to safe environments where they can exercise as appropriate,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “These guidelines outline best practices in keeping with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and health experts for gyms to reopen in a way that will keep their employees and customers safe.”

In addition to strict adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the state recommends gyms, fitness/exercise facilities, or substantially similar facilities and activities put into place an assortment of measures to protect consumers and employees. The full guidelines include:

Business Process Adaptation:

  • Restrict facility access to staffed hours only (i.e., any unmanned facilities must be manned) and limit facility occupancy to 50 percent of capacity as dictated by fire code (as such capacity is adjusted in consideration of closed areas of the facility pursuant to these guidelines);
  • Mitigate exposure in the workplace by implementing social distancing guidelines and modify scheduling;
  • Staff to conduct regular (i.e., every 2 hours) disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, equipment and common areas of the facility using disinfectant cleaning supplies according to CDC guidelines;
  • Close showers, locker rooms and lockers until further notice. Ask customers to instead use small gym bags to store personal belongings; remind customers to appropriately monitor or secure such personal belongs or provide a secure area monitored by staff;
  • Close all swimming pools, hot tubs, saunas and other recreational water or spa facilities;
  • Close all basketball courts, racquetball courts, and other places where formal and informal group or team sports may occur;
  • Any youth or adult team leagues or sports should remain closed;
  • Only allow group fitness classes if classes can be completed in accordance with social distancing recommendations (including but not limited to: less than 50% capacity and with more than 6 feet of distance maintained between participants at all times; no shared equipment during the class; sufficiently adjusted class schedules to allow for deep cleaning between classes; martial arts and other contact activities should be completed without any person-to-person contact);
  • Encourage all employees and customers to wear PPE where applicable, and recommend that customers wear a face covering (not N-95 or medical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers);
  • Adjust equipment layout and close or restrict access to equipment to maintain at least six feet of distance between equipment;
  • Temporarily close water fountains, common areas, break rooms, check-in counters, where customers or employees may congregate. Encourage users to provide their own water;
  • No self-service options (coffee bars, smoothie stations and other forms of communal food in facilities). Food retail should follow restaurant guidelines;
  • Ensure that staffing of facilities is sufficient to enable enhanced sanitization and cleaning measures;

Consumer Protection:

  • Screen customers for illness upon entry to the gym:
  • Best practice: Temperature checks for every customer. Persons with temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should not be permitted on premise;
  • Minimum: Question customers regarding COVID-19 symptoms
    • Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
    • Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat?
    • Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?
  • Keep doors and windows open where possible to improve ventilation;
  • Post signs encouraging social distancing (visible to customers);
  • Require that customers wash or sanitize their hands upon entering and leaving the facility;
  • Require customers to clean equipment they come in contact with using disinfecting wipes before and after each use;
  • Encourage customers to use only one piece of equipment at a time (i.e., no circuits or “super setting”) so that machines are cleaned after use;
  • Consider limiting workout length to avoid unnecessary exposure, decrease congestion, and allow for additional sanitization;
  • Recommend that persons more vulnerable or at-risk for COVID-19 as identified by the CDC — including those who are over the age of 65 or those who have chronic medical conditions — take extra precaution or refrain from use of the facility during Phase 1 of re-opening.

Employee Protection:

  • Allow employees to work from home as much as possible;
  • Screen all employees reporting to work for COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Staff should wear face coverings (not N-95 or medical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers) and other personal protection items as recommended by the CDC;
  • Provide training on personal protective equipment based on CDC guidelines;
  • Provide a sanitizing station such as a wash basin with soap and/or bottle of hand sanitizer;
  • Practice recommended social distancing to the greatest extent possible.

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Tennessee cases rise by 134

2:19 PM CT, April 28

Tennessee has added 134 more confirmed coronavirus cases and four deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Statewide there have been more than 10,000 confirmed cases -- 10,052 -- resulting in 188 deaths. Close to 5,000 people -- 4,921 -- are considered officially recovered; 894 have been hospitalized.

And 161,928 tests have been administered, an increase of 7,526 from yesterday’s figures.

The Department of Health reported 2,376 confirmed cases for Shelby County, up from the 2,358 figure the Shelby County Health Department reported earlier in the day. 

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reported 2,588 confirmed cases and 24 deaths in Davidson County. 

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Health Department issues addendum to reopening directive

12:24 PM CT, April 28

Today’s update by the local COVID-19 task force was led by Shelby County Health Department director Alisa Haushalter. She was joined by city chief operating officer Doug McGowen and health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph.

Randolph, effective today, issued an addendum to the current directive. In the addendum is guidance on preparation for reopening the economy.

They are giving notice for businesses to prepare for reopening. It’s an overview of threshold and safety measures businesses have to meet before Phase 1 begins.

On the reopening date, “We’re not going to set a date from our end until we know we’ve received criteria,” Haushalter said. “It’s important that we stay data driven.”

In a general statement about where the pandemic fight is locally, Haushalter said we’re “moving in the right direction” with a recent plateau and downward trend followed by the increase we saw as the week began. She said it is too early to know what that means.

She also said the preparations to be made by Phase 1 businesses with the new health department directive details does not come with a date the businesses are to be prepared to reopen.

”Stay the course,” Haushalter said of social distancing even with reopening. If it stays, it is more likely to reopen “sooner rather than later.”

On testing by hospitals and varied testing standards to test all, test some, test only symptoms. Haushalter said that is an organizational decision and that the health department provides technical support where needed. They encourage voluntary organizational standards instead of being “heavy-handed.”

Some of the 38 new cases are those that were tested over the weekend. Haushalter touts testing over 25,000.

She said they will continue to seek to expand testing with emphasis on areas of virus clusters. She said they have closed 78% of cases: 1,881 currently being monitored in Shelby County. 1,149 have recovered so far, 1,100 actively recovering. There are high percentages among younger people, but more cases are showing up in the population above age 60.

Haushalter said the ability to trace contacts is part of reopening. They now run two shifts seven days a week with 20 to 25 individuals investigating and monitoring and doing reports. She said that staffing needs will grow. There are 550 employees in the health department and most are not daily in contact working in normal times. Haushalter said a proposal is coming on staffing needs for next year.

McGowen said the hope for state and federal money to increase staffing for contact tracing.

Haushalter said positivity density by ZIP code and by municipality have been requested. She said access to testing impacts that.

On the dropoff in the number of those tested Monday from the weekend. Haushalter said that was a function of large weekend events. She said that looking at data over a 14-day period and not just one day. She said the future focus is on virus cluster and “hot spotting” for communities that need more testing.

On the goal of testing 1,000 a day, Haushalter said they have moved target on that for national discussions of getting 1-2% which is a goal of 2,400 to 3,000 a day for Tennessee.

The specific goal is 2,750 a day.

”We are doing quite well at expanding our capacity,” Haushalter said of testing. “We are moving toward that fairly rapidly.”

With positive cases, they are looking at the number of new cases per day and new cases along with when they were tested. “You want to have a positivity rate below 10%.” 

Ours has been nine and thereabouts, just under 10. We need more testing of cluster and high risk groups.

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Watch today’s COVID Joint Task Force briefing

12:00 PM CT, April 28

Today’s COVID Joint Task Force briefing, scheduled for noon, will be led by Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter.

Watch below:

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Mississippi State Department of Health reports 248 new cases

11:31 AM CT, April 28

Mississippi State Department of Health confirmed 248 new novel coronavirus cases in its daily report Tuesday.

The total number of those affected since March 11 is 6,342.

DeSoto County has six new cases for a total of 272. MSDH reports the county remains at four deaths from complications of the virus and has two long-term care facilities with outbreaks.

Marshall County has one new case, according to MSDH. The county had no new cases Monday. It now has a total of 42 cases and remains at two deaths.

Hinds County, home to Jackson, still has the most cases in the state – 435.

Lauderdale County has seen 19 deaths, the most of any county. Additionally the county has 75 long-term care facilities with outbreaks.

The state has seen a total of 239 deaths and 721 long-term care facility outbreaks, according to MSDH.

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Gas prices near 12-year low in Tennessee

11:04 AM CT, April 28

The average price of gasoline in Tennessee continues to decline and dropped nearly 4 cents in the past week.

The average price in Tennessee is now $1.56 for unleaded, 25 cents less than a month ago and down $1.07 a gallon from a year ago, according to AAA - The Auto Club Group.

“If the state average drops below $1.50, motorists will be seeing the cheapest prices in 12 years,” Megan Cooper, a spokesperson for AAA - The Auto Club Group, said in a release.

AAA reports 46% of filling stations have sub-$1.50 gas prices.

The lowest prices in Memphis now are $1.14 a gallon for regular unleaded at three stations on South Perkins Road, according to GasBuddy.com.

Nationally, the average price is $1.77 a gallon, which is also 4 cents less than last week and $1.11 less than a year ago.

Lower demand for oil is fueling the price drops. The Energy Information Administration reported average oil demand in April at 5.3 million barrels per day, compared to 9.45 million barrels per day last April.

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Kemmons Wilson School organizes care package distribution for hospitality workers

10:54 AM CT, April 28

The Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality & Resort Management at University of Memphis is supplying groceries and household supplies to hospitality workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school, led by professor and dean Radesh Palakurthi, is asking operators of hotels and hospitality businesses to identify workers who have been laid off or furloughed or otherwise need help.

The Hospitality Employees Assistance Program is supported by the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation, Kemmons Wilson Culinary Institute, Holiday Inn at University of Memphis, Malco Theatres, Girl Scouts Heart of the South, US Foods and area hospitality associations: the Metro Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association, Memphis Restaurant Association and Metro Memphis Attractions Association.

Organizers say each care package could last a family a week.

“During these difficult times, as many hospitality businesses are dealing with existential issues, many workers are also struggling to make ends meet. The H.E.A.P initiative at the Kemmons Wilson School is aimed at helping hospitality employees impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing free CARE PACKAGES of groceries and household supplies that could last a family for a week,” Palakurthi said in a letter to hospitality businesses this week.

A survey form to identify workers is available here.

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Senate Democrats seek election changes

10:39 AM CT, April 28

Senate Democrats seek election changes in pandemic: Tennesseans should not have to choose between their health and casting a vote this year, Democrats in the Senate say.

An April 27 letter, co-signed by each member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, is urging Gov. Bill Lee and Secretary of State Tre Hargett, the state’s top election official, to develop a statewide plan to protect voters from coronavirus.

Democrats are advocating for at least three measures to protect the health of voters and reduce crowd sizes on Election Day:

 * Absentee voting by mail for any voter who wants to;

 * Expanded early voting options, including additional days, locations and hours;

 * Require voting precincts to be approved by county health officials.

“Administering fair, accessible elections during a pandemic is new territory. But we do not have to choose between public health and a functioning democracy,” the caucus wrote. “We have the resources, ability and time to ensure everyone can register, cast a ballot and have their vote counted - without compromising their health.”

In-person early voting for the August state primary is scheduled to begin across the state on July 17.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot for the August election is July 30.

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Two more deaths attributed to The King’s Daughters and Sons Home outbreak

10:50 AM CT, April 28

Two more deaths are attributed to the coronavirus outbreak at The King’s Daughters and Sons Home, according to the Shelby County Health Department. 

There have been four deaths related to coronavirus there, the health department reports. According to the health department, other long-term facilities have seen deaths related to coronavirus outbreaks: four at Carriage Court Assisted Living Facility, four at The Village at Germantown and two at Parkway Health and Rehab.

At The King’s Daughters and Sons Home, nine residents and six staff members have tested positive for coronavirus. The skilled nursing facility is located at 3568 Appling Road in Bartlett. 

An undated letter posted on the facility’s website stated that at the beginning of March a coronavirus task force made up of staff, including an infection preventionist, met to review existing infectious disease policies and procedures.

“As soon as COVID-19 was diagnosed The King’s Daughters and Sons Home took additional steps to prevent the spread and will continue to act swiftly and appropriately with the health, safety and welfare of our residents and associates in mind,” the letter goes on to state. “Visitors will continue to be restricted, staff will continue to be screened, group activities and communal dining remain canceled and we will not be accepting any outside food, drinks or laundry at this time.”

The facility stated that it has reviewed its infection control policy and updated them as necessary and is reviewing changing conditions or presence of respiratory illness in our community daily.

The health department has investigated coronavirus clusters at least 12 long-term care facilities. Only one, Carriage Court, is considered resolved.

A cluster or outbreak is considered resolved once a facility has gone 28 days without a new case.

 

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Shelby County confirms 38 new cases as testing drops

10:07 AM CT, April 28

As of Tuesday, April 28, Shelby County now has 2,358 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Shelby County Health Department’s latest data.

That’s an increase of 38 cases from the day prior, but also comes with a sharp decrease in new testing numbers. The county reported an additional 449 tests Tuesday, nearly 900 fewer tests than Monday (1,329) and more than 1,000 fewer on Sunday (1,460). 

The health department also reported an additional death due to the virus with the total now at 46. A total of 1,149 people have recovered from the disease in Shelby County, according to the county. 

There have been 25,748 total tests taken in Shelby County with a 9.2% positivity rate. 

In Tennessee, there are 9,918 cases with 184 deaths as of Monday, April 27, according to the state’s department of health.

There have been 154,402 total tests statewide, with a positivity rate of 6.4%.

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Memphis faith leaders vow joint response to COVID-19

9:40 AM CT, April 28

Several Memphis area clergy leaders are pledging a united effort to address the needs of their congregations, in light of COVID-19.

In a document labeled “Memphis Clergy Response to COVID-19,” 15 local ministers, across various faith groups and denominations, have signed a vow, addressing the manner in which they will interact with their respective faith communities.

“Human contact and comfort are what we desire. We are always better together, and it is together that we will find healing, that we will survive,” the letter reads.

“As faith leaders of Memphis and West Tennessee, we are certain that the response to this virus and the destruction it has rendered requires moral leadership that seeks to do what is right for everyone in our city.”

The document lists four basic principles, outlining the focus of these leaders in the local religious community:

  • We will rely on the medical and scientific community as our primary resource for information.
  • We will work collaboratively to responsibly care for those who contract COVID-19.
  • We will collaborate to determine when returning to in-person worship is possible.
  • We will continue to speak up.

“We do not presume to speak for all clergy in the city and surrounding areas, but we hope that our voices reflect the wide and deep fabric of Memphis and West Tennessee’s congregational life,” the letter reads.

It is signed by leadership from:

  • Islamic Center of Tennessee
  • Citadel of Deliverance COGIC
  • Nashville Episcopal Area, UMC
  • Temple Israel
  • Church Health
  • Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee
  • The Life Church
  • Metro District, UMC
  • Hope Church
  • New Direction Christian
  • Christ United Methodist Church
  • Christ Missionary Baptist Church
  • Catholic Diocese of Memphis
  • Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church
  • Calvary Episcopal Church

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Shelby County and Tennessee cases and tests

9:35 AM CT, April 28

 

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How cases are growing in Shelby County and Tennessee

9:33 AM CT, April 28

 

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April 27, 2020

Lee: hospitals can resume elective surgeries Friday

3:28 PM CT, April 27

Gov. Bill Lee said Monday more than 30,000 state employees working at home will continue to do so until May 26.

Lee said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to reauthorizing a safer at home order in case the numbers of COVID-19 surge. Restaurants and retail stores are reopening at 50% capacity this week, and hospitals will follow.

”We make adjustments to protect the public safety,” he said.

Lee announced that hospitals will be allowed to resume elective surgeries starting Friday at hospitals across the state.

Hospitals began delaying procedures even before the governor’s executive order in March, according to Wendy Long, executive director of the Tennessee Hospital Association.

The Tennessee Hospital Association Board of Directors last week voted in favor of a method for returning to surgeries. Hospitals want to be “methodical” and see what happens with the threat of the virus and take a cautious return to elective procedures, Long said.

Facilities must have protective equipment in place and methods to protect the public.

The timing and approach will be determined at the community level and tests run by hospitals to make sure they’re prepared to resume work, Long said.

The governor said he participated in a conference call with the White House Monday morning. And that the Trump Administration had been “very helpful” to his administration.

 

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Tennessee adds 251 cases, 3 deaths

2:25 PM CT, April 27

Tennessee has 251 more confirmed coronavirus cases and three more deaths resulting from the disease, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Statewide there are close to 10,000 confirmed cases -- 9,918 -- and 184 deaths.

The agency reports that 154,402 tests have been administered, an increase of 6,928 since Sunday’s reporting. 

The Department of Health considers 4,720 people recovered from the disease. People are considered recovered when they have been confirmed to be asymptomatic by their local or regional health department and have completed their required isolation period or are at least 21 days past the first test confirming their illness. 

The Department of Health reports 2,327 cases in Shelby County, up seven from the 2,320 figure released earlier in the day by the Shelby County Health Department. 

Nashville’s Metro Public Health Department reports 2,488 cases in Davidson County and 22 deaths.

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