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COVID-19 in Tennessee: The Basics

Q: What is COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus?

A: COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed cases. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

Q: Is COVID-19 dangerous and a threat to my health or the health of my family and friends?

A: Yes, COVID-19 is a dangerous disease. While many people have shown little to no symptoms when infected, others have developed serious complications and died. The disease is particularly dangerous for older adults, people with compromised immune systems, or those with underlying health issues like diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: According to the Centers for Disease Control, common COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

Q: When should I seek emergency medical attention for symptoms of COVID-19?

A: According to the Centers for Disease Control, seek medical attention if you have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Q: What are the best sources to get information about COVID-19?

A: It is critical to share accurate information with the public about the virus. The following websites are reliable sources of information and updated frequently. Share with your loved ones and neighbors.  





Q: How can I keep myself and my family safe from COVID-19?

A: The best way to avoid getting sick from COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to the virus. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the best practices for avoiding COVID-19 infections are to:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid close contact with others.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth when around others.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect regularly.

Q: Where can I get tested for COVID-19? 

A: Gov. Lee has directed the Unified-Command group to rapidly expand Tennessee’s COVID-19 testing capacity and enable more Tennesseans to have improved access. This increased testing capacity will empower citizens to make informed health decisions, and allow us to get Tennesseans back to work quickly and safely. 

Our clinical understanding of COVID-19 is changing rapidly and we need every Tennessean who isn’t feeling well, even outside of the traditional COVID-19 symptoms of cough, fever or difficulty breathing, to come out and get tested.

The full list of testing sites is available here.

Additional resources:

Q: What is the COVID-19 Unified-Command? 

A: Governor Lee established the Unified Command on March 23, 2020 to streamline coordination across key Tennessee departments to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. The group is tasked with changing the way the state attacks COVID-19 in Tennessee to simultaneously address health, economic, and supply crises. 

For more information, visit the Unified Command website

Q: Where can small businesses receive relief from the effects of COVID-19? 

A: Businesses can apply for low-interest loans with the Small Business Administration here.

Q: Is the State of Tennessee offering any financial assistance to families or individuals that have lost jobs, wages, or income due to COVID-19? How long will it take to receive this relief? 

A: In Executive Order No. 15, Governor Lee temporarily suspended Tennessee’s one-week waiting period to receive benefits. During this temporary suspension, the state will pay the first week of benefits as soon as an unemployment claim is approved. 

The COVID-19 emergency has created a tremendous amount of unemployment claims. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development is processing them as quickly as possible. You can check the status of your claim on your dashboard. 

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is providing Emergency Cash Assistance to families that were employed as of March 11, 2020 and have lost a job or lost at least 50% of their earned income due to the COVID-19 emergency. Details on eligibility and how to apply can be found here

TDHS is also providing child care and financial assistance to families and child care providers impacted by COVID-19. Details on the variety of assistance can be found here:

Q: How do I apply for unemployment?  

A: Tennessee’s unemployment system is completely online. Individuals can apply, check the status of their claim, and complete weekly certifications at

Q: My doctor has ordered me to quarantine because of COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment? 

A: If you are quarantined or ordered to isolate by a medical professional or health authority, you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits if all other eligibility requirements are met, and you intend to return to your job.

Q: I’ve exhausted my unemployment benefits, but COVID-19 is keeping me from finding a new job. Is there an extension of the benefits available?  

A: Yes, there will be extended benefits soon. The CARES Act does provide for Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). It is a federal program that pays after ALL other unemployment programs have been exhausted. The federal government has yet to provide states with guidelines for this program.

Q: Are there any special Self-Employed/1099 benefits or expanded unemployed insurance benefits being offered?

A: The Tennessee Department of Labor is awaiting additional federal guidance on the implementation of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, including the extra $600/week and benefits for Self-Employed and 1099 workers. These workers should file their claims, even if they receive a “monetarily ineligible” notice at Benefits will be dispersed once federal guidance is obtained.

Q: If I am unemployed due to COVID-19, can my utilities be cut off?

A: The Tennessee Public Utility Commission ordered private, investor-owned natural gas, electric, water, and wastewater utility companies to suspend the disconnection of utility services due to nonpayment during Tennessee’s state of emergency status. For public and co-op utility providers, please contact them to see what emergency programs they have in place.

Q: Do I still have to pay my taxes during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: The filing deadline for franchise and excise taxes, Hall taxes, state, and city business taxes and professional privilege taxes have been extended. Additional information can be found here.

What is the Tennessee Business Relief Program?

This is a program to reimburse small businesses for costs incurred as a result of mandatory closures.  Specific types of small businesses impacted by the crisis are eligible for a business relief payment.

Which businesses are eligible for a business relief payment?

The following types of small businesses are eligible:

  • Barber shops
  • Beauty shops
  • Nail salons
  • Tattoo parlors, spas, and other personal care services
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Hotels and other travel accommodations
  • Theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers and similar facilities
  • Museums, zoos, and other similar attractions
  • Amusement parks
  • Bowling centers and arcades
  • Marinas
  • Amusement, sports and recreational industries
  • Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events
  • Agents and managers of artists, athletes, and entertainers
  • Independent artists, writers, and performers

In addition, the following small businesses are eligible if their sales were reduced by at least 25%, as shown on their April sales tax returns (filed in May):

  • Furniture stores
  • Home furnishing stores
  • Clothing stores
  • Shoe stores
  • Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
  • Sporting goods, hobby, and musical instrument stores
  • Book stores
  • Department stores
  • Office supply, stationery and gift stores
  • Used merchandise stores
  • Other miscellaneous stores

How many Tennessee businesses are expected to qualify for a business relief payment?

More than 28,000 Tennessee businesses are expected to qualify for a business relief payment.

How will the amount of the business relief payment be determined?

The amount of the business relief payment will be based on the annual gross sales of the business.  The department will provide additional details soon.

What is the total amount of funds you expect to distribute under this program?

The department expects to distribute approximately $200,000,000 in funds.

If eligible, when will I receive my payment?

Additional details about the timing of business relief payments will be provided soon.

If eligible, how will I receive my payment?

Payments will be made by direct deposit if the business has previously provided bank account information and authorized the department to save that information.  Otherwise, payments will be made by check.  Businesses are encouraged to update their mailing addresses by logging into TNTAP at

How does this program benefit smaller businesses?

More than 73% of the businesses projected to receive payments have annual gross sales of $500,000 or less.  

What if I am not registered with the Department of Revenue?

Businesses that are not registered with the department to file either sales tax or business tax returns are not eligible for a business relief payment.

What if my business is not listed above, but I closed voluntarily?

Business relief payments are available only to the types of businesses listed above.

What if I want to provide my direct deposit information?

In order to issue payments as quickly as possible, the department cannot use direct deposit information that is not already saved in its tax system.

What if I have additional questions about the Tennessee Business Relief Program?

You can call our Taxpayer Services Division, from 8 am to 4:30 pm, Central time, at 615-253-0600, or email us at

Q: I do not have my Real ID yet or a driver’s license. What should I do?

A: The REAL ID deadline has been postponed, and Governor Lee has suspended the issuance of REAL ID through May 18, 2020. Emissions testing requirements are waived through April 24, 2020. All Drivers Licenses, Learner Permits, CDLs, Photo ID Licenses, and Handgun Carry Permits that would expire between March 12, 2020, and May 19, 2020, will be extended for 6 months after the original expiration date. A letter of extension will be issued to the individuals affected. Affected individuals will be required to keep the letter with them during the extension period.

Q: My license is going to expire, what should I do?

A: Starting March 20, 2020, the Department is waiving its requirement that citizens appear in person and have a new photograph taken through October 1, 2021. This will allow many customers with expiring credentials to renew online and not visit in person. 

Non-US citizens with Temporary driver licenses (Class XD and XID) will still need to visit in person to renew those licenses upon the expiration of the current license.

Q: How can I be helpful to my fellow Tennesseans during this difficult time?

A: During the Safer at Home period, the most powerful thing you can do is stay home. That will help slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our neighbors safe. 

More ways to help while practicing social distancing:  

TN Volunteer Mobilizer

Tennessee Serves

For vendors wanting to provide their services to help the state respond, visit the LaunchTN Innovation Crowdsource Platform

Have PPE to donate? If your agency or medical practice needs PPE, please communicate your supply needs with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). For a list of local EMA personnel visit this site, select the region on the left side of the screen and find your county.

Q: Are state parks still open?

A: Most Tennessee State Parks reopened for day-use visitation between 7 a.m. and sunset starting April 24, 2020. The public can access most trails, boat ramps, marinas, golf courses, and other outdoor recreation opportunities. 

Additional parks or areas of parks could be closed when the capacity is reached. Check the Tennessee State Park COVID-19 Closures page for the most up to date information. 


Q: Are Tennessee welcome centers still open?

15 of Tennessee's 16 welcome centers are continuing to provide essential services to traveler safety including restroom access, parking, ramp access, security, and vending machines. One welcome center in downtown Memphis is currently closed.  

Q: Has my church, synagogue, mosque, or place of worship been shut down by the state?

A:  The Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives released guidance for faith communities on gathering together in houses of worship which include the following recommendations:

  • A phased approach to resuming in-person gatherings is recommended. Vulnerable populations (everyone 65 years and older, people with disabilities, people with serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, people who are immunocompromised, and others) and children’s activities/nursery programs should not gather in person until a later time;
  • Consider solutions to minimize close personal contact that may be part of your services, such as handshakes or sharing food and drink;
  • As the phased approach begins, limit the size of attendance in your sanctuary and other confined spaces to create seating arrangements that provide at least 6-foot distancing between families. It is recommended not to exceed 50% of the maximum capacity of the room and should enable full compliance with CDC recommendations for social distancing and hygiene;
  • Wear face coverings;
  • Encourage members of the community to stay at home if they are symptomatic, have a fever, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, or has traveled internationally or to a domestic hot spot in the past two weeks;
  • If a member of the congregation has tested positive for COVID-19, consult CDC guidelines and local health department recommendations to determine whether in-person gatherings should cease immediately, the building should close for additional cleaning, or other protocol changes are required.

The full guidelines can be found here.