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Tennessee lawmakers approve $39.8 billion budget amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 6:56 AM, Mar 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 19:35:27-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee lawmakers passed a $39.8 billion state budget in a marathon, 14-hour session. It comes with several last-minute changes to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers have been scrambling to approve a newly designed 2020-21 fiscal year budget since the beginning of the week, maintaining that the only “mission critical” proposals would be passed before recessing and heading back to work as soon as June 1.

Several amendments and cuts were made to get the budget passed. Now $150 million will cover public health issues related to the virus. Governor Bill Lee also signed off on putting in $350 million in the state's rainy-day fund.

Some other changes to note – statewide testing won't happen this year and teacher raises are also being cut in half.

Despite getting a budget passed during a pandemic, lawmakers from both sides of aisle still had their disagreements. Rep. Bill Beck (D – Nashville) wanted to see more done to help small businesses that are struggling right now.

“I told them I said, ‘listen, we're going to be gone until June, maybe July, and we’re going to come back and make right.’ What they tell me is that they're not going to make it until June or July,” said Beck.

The overhauled $39.8 billion spending plan approved Thursday is nearly a $1 billion less than what Republican Gov. Bill Lee originally proposed earlier this year.

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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.

Prevention

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.