NewsNewsChannel 5 Investigates


TN Governor: 'There will be many more' lives lost to COVID-19

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
Posted at 6:04 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 20:01:55-04

NASHVILLE, TN (WTVF) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee insisted Tuesday that the COVID-19 storm "is passing," but new data suggests the deadly storm has a long way to go.

"Lives are going to be lost," Lee admitted, adding: "there will be many more."

That data from the University of Washington shows that, in Tennessee, the outbreak is expected to reach peak on April 26th.

At that point, Tennessee could need almost 19,000 hospital beds, but it only has 7,800.

The state may need 2,900 intensive care beds, but there are just have 629 available.

In addition, the number of deaths could reach 192 a day, reaching a total of 4,985 by June.

For more than 10 days, all the state's top medical organizations had been pleading with Lee to order a shelter-in-place.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Lee why he had been slow to follow the doctors' advice.

"We tried to determine the right time to do this," Lee answered.

"You can't do it for an unlimited time period. So you have time periods that you can do it. The right time when the curve is at the right place in Tennessee will likely have the best impact to slowing the surge."

We asked, "Do you think you were too late and lives will be lost because of the delay?"

"I think we made the right decision on timing," Lee insisted. "I think that lives are going to be lost in this state. We've already lost 23. There will be many more."

The governor also suggested there was very little difference between those states that have issued stay-at-home orders and those who have not.

But all the top medical experts insist staying at home is the key to surviving this pandemic.


See all our coronavirus coverage here


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.