Gov. Lee announces emergency declaration to help fight COVID-19

Posted at 10:14 AM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 18:43:35-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee has signed an executive order to allow Tennessee to receive additional federal funds and relax laws to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Lee said Executive Order 14 is an "emergency declaration" that "will move [Tennessee] into a position to bring in additional funds from FEMA and relax certain laws which will make it easier to respond to this disease."

Lee’s executive order declares a “state of emergency” and includes the following provisions:

  • Gives state health commissioner power to allow licensed health professionals from other states to practice medicine in Tennessee without having to pursue a state license
  • Allows pharmacists to dispense an extra 30-day supply of maintenance prescriptions without prior authorization
  • Permits health care workers to provide “localized treatment of patients in temporary residences” without having to be licensed specifically to provide home health services
  • Clears way for alternative testing sites without having to get approval from the state Medical Laboratory Board.
  • Allows construction of temporary medical facilities without state approval
  • Declares that an “abnormal economic disruption exists” and prohibits price gouging for medical or emergency supplies
  • Relaxes trucking rules to allow larger deliveries of emergency and medical supplies and to allow truckers to exceed the maximum hours on the road for such deliveries
  • Allows the human services commissioner to waive child care licensure rules as necessary to respond to the C0VID-19 emergency
  • Gives TennCare the authority to create or modify policies to ensure that recipients receive medically necessary services without disruption
  • Directs the state Department of Health and the Department of Commerce and Insurance to work with insurance companies to “identify and remove any burdens to responding to COVID-19” and improve access to screening, testing and treatment

Lee said all Tennesseans should take this seriously, even if you're not in one of the most at-risk groups. He advised the elderly or adults with underlying health conditions to avoid crowds and urged everyone to stop all non-essential visits to nursing homes and hospitals.

"What we do today will impact tomorrow's efforts to fight the spread," Lee said. "That's why things change because we have a fluid health situation in our state."
Tennessee Department of Health officials said at least 500 COVID-19 tests are available in state labs and there's no concern about there not being enough tests.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons has requested adjourning the Tennessee House of Representatives “for a sufficient period of time” to allow the federal and state government and medical professionals to address the virus “and public fear arising from the spread of COVID-19.”

Lee said that’s a decision for the legislature to make. The plan is to get the budget passed sooner than originally planned.

Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) issued the following statement:

“The General Assembly is encouraging groups who have planned non-essential events and activities in and around the Cordell Hull Building and Capitol to consider rescheduling or postponing. We will continue with the business for which we have been elected and for which we are constitutionally bound. But we will do so with extreme caution and in the public health’s best interest. We will continue to monitor the spread of the virus and keep in consultation with Governor Lee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Our website will remain online and meetings will continue to be streamed and televised. The people of Tennessee will still have access to the work they have elected us to do. We will continue to take additional action as needed.”


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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.