COVID-19 Bulletin #26 - April 27, 2020
Today, Governor Bill Lee provided an update on Tennessee’s efforts regarding COVID-19. Gov. Lee’s daily press conferences can be viewed live Monday through Thursday at 3 p.m. CDT here. Visit tn.gov/covid19 for up-to-date administrative action.
The Tennessee Pledge: Reopening Tennessee
Universal Guidance for Tennessee Businesses can be accessed here.
Restaurant Industry Guidance can be accessed here.
Retail Industry Guidance can be accessed here.
Additional information on Tennessee's Economic Recovery Group is available here.
Weekend Testing Update
This weekend, with the help of the National Guard and Department of Health personnel, we conducted 7,000 free COVID-19 tests to Tennesseans, regardless of traditional symptoms. Unified-Command Group has conducted more than 18,000 tests in a two-week period and contributed to the more than 150,000 tests that have been processed in our state to date.
Aggressive testing is key to the state’s reopen strategy, and we urge more Tennesseans to take advantage of this service, especially those who begin returning to work during our phased re-open. As a reminder, Tennesseans can receive a free COVID-19 test 5 days a week at their local health department.
Drive-through testing sites will also be available during the weekend of May 2-3. A full list of sites is available here, and additional information on Tennessee’s aggressive testing push is available here.
As Gov. Lee focuses on expanding COVID-19 testing, the Unified Command Group is working to provide information to help the Tennesseans understand how serology, or antibody, can, and cannot, inform the State’s re-opening strategy.
Although the research is still ongoing, this will give us a first estimate of the number of Tennesseans with COVID-19 antibodies, which will assist us in developing our strategy for more widespread antibody test of the general population. The Tennessee Department of Health will be distributing a technical brief to health care providers in Tennessee with details about antibody testing and its limitations. TDH is also working on a plan to test of up 10,000 health care workers in Tennessee’s public teaching hospitals.
Q: How is a COVID-19 antibody test different than the nasal swab test I received at the health department?
A: An antibody test involves taking a blood sample to detect cells in the body that have previously been exposed to, and fought off, a virus. A nasal swab test only detects whether a patient currently has a viral infection.
Q: It seems there are many antibody tests already available, doesn’t that mean the tests have been approved and proven to be effective?
A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only approved six COVID-19 antibody tests for clinical use, and most of these have not been widely distributed. There are many antibody tests in the FDA’s pipeline and may ultimately receive approval. However, most of the antibody tests ready for use have not been validated.
Q: Isn’t it better to know whether or not I’ve had COVID-19 by getting an antibody test?
A: The primary issue with these unproven antibody tests is they can give patients false-positive results by detecting other types of coronaviruses, usually the kind that cause the common cold. A false-positive result may lead to a conclusion that a patient has immunity to COVID-19, when what the test really shows is, at some point in time, the patient was exposed to another type of coronavirus and its antibodies are present, not the antibodies for COVID-19.
Q: If I have antibodies in my blood, doesn’t it mean I’m immune to COVID-19?
A: There is not enough data yet on COVID-19 antibody testing to prove having the antibodies will prevent a person from being re-infected with COVID-19. There are some indications most, maybe not all, people who have been infected with COVID-19 will develop antibodies in their blood that can be detected for a period of time. There isn’t enough data to confirm this is true, or if it happens to be true how long the immunity will last.
Working with the Trump Administration
Earlier today, Gov. Lee participated in his weekly call with the White House. There was significant conversation around rebooting the economy and expanding testing, both of which we are aggressively pursuing in Tennessee.
The Trump Administration continues to be accessible and insightful as we work together to fight COVID-19 and get our people back to work.
Elective Procedures Resume
On Friday, elective medical procedures will be allowed to resume so Tennessee nurses and other hospital workers can get back to work. It’s important to get hospitals back online with elective procedures so Tennesseans can safely resume more routine services, including scheduling quality of life procedures. Procedures like routine screenings and joint replacements are included in this first wave.
Tennessee State Workforce Update
The State of Tennessee will continue to weigh appropriate measures to ensure we are fiscally conservative through this pandemic. Gov. Lee has directed the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration to temporarily freeze any new non-mission critical hires to our state’s workforce.
At the state level, we will continue to keep employees working from home until May 26th. This means that state services can continue without disruption as we work towards the gradual return of working in office.
Current Department of Health Testing Results (as of 2 p.m. 4/27)
For more information on COVID-19 in Tennessee, please visit the Tennessee Department of Health’s website here.