Bill Lee April 3

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee held a press conference in Knoxville on Friday after meeting with local leaders about the area’s plans to combat COVID-19. Here is a summary.

Lee said he and his Unified Command met with local officials Friday.

Every Tennessean has a personal responsibility to engage in behaviors and activities to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Leaders are working on response to slow the spread and mitigate the damages.

Unified Command is comprised of the Tennessee Department of Health, TEMA and the Department of Military, with a goal of expanding the capacity of the healthcare system statewide to meet the needs related to the expected surge of the virus.

Officials spoke about available facilities for providing care. The state estimates it will need an extra 7,000 healthcare beds beyond what is normally available. Lee on Thursday announced plans to convert Music City Center in Nashville. The meeting in Knoxville concerned the Knoxville Expo Center.

TDH has an area on its website for health care workers who are not working and want to help.

We are working to get more personal protective equipment (PPEs) for front-line workers in every county.

LaunchTN is a partnership with private industry who wants to help us with PPEs. Over 400 companies of all sizes have responded.

The University of Tennessee has printed 3D-printed face shields, and colleges across the state have provided over 10,000 face shields.

The pandemic has created an economic crisis.

The CARES Act from federal government: Project Paycheck will be set up through local banks. We are grateful for the local banks that are partnering with the federal government and the state to provide funds to support small businesses.


A reporter asked about local quantities of ventilators, etc.

Lee: We provide that information. Counts are not always available daily. They are used daily. We do have a significant inflow of masks coming into our state. We have been able to stay ahead of the need. No one has run out. If they have, we need to hear it.

On ventilators, we made estimates of what we think we need. We need 1,900 for the surge. We have 950 right now that are not being used. We have 500 on order and we think will be delivered by the surge. We are inventorying ventilators at outpatient surgery centers because of reduction of nonessential surgeries, and there are at least a couple hundred available from that. Inventory will be done in couple of days.

How many beds are at the Knoxville Expo center and when will the center be ready?

Lee: There will be 350 beds there for COVID-19 patients who do not require a high-level of care. Are sites are being considered.

A reporter asked for a definition of safe at home and how it will be enforced.

Lee: In the last four-five days, we saw troubling data around social distancing; we saw more active movement on roads and cellphone activity provided by third-parties. That is anonymous activity; when you have a phone, you agree for some companies to have that data and they post that publicly. We saw Tennesseans were moving around more, especially in areas with less strict regulations. So, we strengthened that order. We gave local law enforcement the authority to enforce the previous executive orders and gave them clear guidelines on how we thought they should do that and they will do that in their own ways. We believe people will comply. We sent a letter to every agency.

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