Skip to Main Content

Find COVID-19 Information and Resources
Commitment to Accessibility

June 10, 2020

Governor Bill Lee:

Welcome and thank you for joining today our press briefing which gives us the opportunity to communicate about very important subjects across our state, whether it's COVID-19, the economic recovery or any other serious conversation we need to have. We appreciate those who've tuned in and those who are here to engage.

Governor Bill Lee:

The first thing I want to address is the uptick in cases in coronavirus and COVID-19 cases, positive cases, in our state. These... In the last week, we've had an uptick of those cases. It's not unexpected, given that folks are out and about much more, moving around our state. It's very important that we follow this information, this data, not only the cases that we have in our state, but the very important data point of hospital capacity. And fortunately, our hospital capacity is very stable in spite of this uptick of cases, but we will continue to track that and make sure we monitor that important data.

Governor Bill Lee:

I also want to encourage Tennesseans that one of the reasons we got to a place where... To the place that we could open our economy in a greater way. One of the reasons is because Tennesseans did what helps to mitigate the spread of a virus like COVID-19. Washing hands, staying home when sick, getting a test, which is incredibly important for Tennesseans to remember; wearing a mask. And we have continued distribution of the free masks that we provided. The EPA, as you know, has reported and made sure that we all know that those masks are safe for Tennesseans, so we've begun the redistribution, the continued distribution of those masks.

Governor Bill Lee:

But all of those things... Social distancing... Measures that Tennesseans have taken have allowed us to move forward. In this environment of an opened economy, it's incredibly important that Tennesseans continue to do that, continue to follow those practices so we can mitigate the spread of this virus and manage and maintain it as we go through the summer.

Governor Bill Lee:

A couple of other things we're going to talk about today are nursing homes in Tennessee. We're going to talk about support that we're providing for Tennessee businesses and continued efforts to ensure that our minority communities receive the testing and the treatment that is necessary in the midst of this pandemic.

Governor Bill Lee:

Our nursing homes and our long-term care facilities have been closed to outside visitors since March. This measure has been necessary in order to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens, the elderly, and for whom this virus has been particularly cruel. At the same time, it's created a tremendous hardship for those residents and for their family members because they've been unable to visit with one another, friends and family for almost three months. Every nursing home and long-term care facility resident will have been tested by this Friday, and we have been working with, and I'm very grateful to the nursing home and long-term care facility industry for working with our health department, to not only get the testing done of the residents, but to ensure that we have a process for repeat testing for staff members in those facilities all across the state. Our unified command group has worked very closely with this industry to take the steps necessary to, really to provide safety for the most vulnerable in our community.

Governor Bill Lee:

But today, I signed an executive order that will allow these facilities to again open their doors to visitors starting on Monday, June the 15th. We've set expectations that specific safety protocols will be followed, because while we want to provide for an opportunity for visitation and for family members to once again reconnect with their loved ones in long-term care facilities, we can't ignore the fact that these are our most vulnerable citizens, and so there will be strict safety protocols put in place. At the same time, we do want to open up those facilities for visitation.

Governor Bill Lee:

Dr. Piercy's going to give more information about what safe visitation actually looks like in a few minutes when she gives her report, and if you are planning to visit your loved ones in a nursing home, I encourage you to show grace to those facilities who are having to make dramatic changes in a very short period of time, because we wanted to make sure that folks could have access to their loved ones. But we're grateful for the hard work that those facilities are doing. This is one of our most vulnerable populations and we all have to work together to make sure that we protect them. If you are going to visit, as well, get a test. You know, testing, and I'll say this over and over again... Testing not only provides you information about your own health, but it actually provides... It provides the state with the information that understands where cases are and therefore where spread happens, and it really provides protection for your neighbors as well when you get a test. So, particularly if you're going to go back into a nursing home facility, please get a test.

Governor Bill Lee:

Individuals have taken advantage of voluntary free testing throughout this pandemic. We have worked really hard to make testing widely available because we know that that's one of the most important things that we can do to fight this virus. But I want to call on Tennessee businesses today. We invite employers, especially those of our larger facilities, manufacturing facilities, large numbers of employees, to work with us to coordinate pop-up testing facilities for your companies and for your employees. Again, it helps all Tennesseans when any Tennessean gets a test, and as more employees return to work, we want to work with employers to have those employees tested. Last week, state employees began to come back to work in their office place and we have... We offered testing to state workers. We want to do the same thing for industries all across the state, so our unified command group can work with any employers that wants to set up a pop-up test for their facility. Information is available on our website and we encourage employers to engage in that.

Governor Bill Lee:

Throughout the pandemic, we have repeatedly seen how COVID-19 has exposed particularly barriers to minority communities, and we've been... We've made a great effort to be thoughtful in our approach to providing materials and our health departments in multiple languages and to engage trusted community partners so that we can provide more access to more people all across the state. Last month, we worked with Housing and Urban Development agencies in our major metropolitan areas - Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville - to provide free voluntary testing to residents right in their neighborhood, particularly in an effort to serve folks who might have transportation barriers. We want to continue to build on those efforts and continue to build partnerships. I want to make a special shout-out and express gratitude especially to churches in Memphis who are actually working together to create a large testing event this weekend. Our faith communities have played an important role and continue to do so, but we're grateful for their work this weekend to especially provide more testing to the communities that they are in. We're also working with our federally qualified health clinics across the state to make sure that we provide access to more testing for our minority populations.

Governor Bill Lee:

Kimberly Lamar from our... Dr. Lamar from our Department of Health's Office of Minority and Health Disparity Elimination is with us today, and I've asked her to come up and say a few additional comments about our efforts to reach all Tennesseans. Dr. Lamar.

Dr. Kimberly Lamar:

Good afternoon, and thank you, Governor. During this heightened time, as we pursue justice and as we work to rebuild and recover, it's more important than ever that we maintain health in our communities. The impact of COVID has been significant on minority communities, particularly our African-American communities and our Latino populations. Particularly as the heightened work that has evolved and that is needed, as a result of many conversations that have been held across the state, it is pertinent that we work to ensure that health is equitable, accessible and attainable for all Tennesseans. The Department of Health is committed to doing this work and we are also committed to addressing and advancing health equity.

Dr. Kimberly Lamar:

Over the past six weeks, the Office of Minority Health and Rural Health have engaged hundreds of faith and community leaders, academic partners and local and state government officials in the Health Disparities Task Force. This meeting of the task force occurs weekly and has revealed and uncovered many barriers, challenges and needs of our minority populations that have hindered their ability to attain health. The task force has tackled topics on mental health, substance misuse, physical and intellectual disabilities, the needs for seniors, and most importantly, COVID testing expansion efforts. We've connected these agencies with resources and have ensured that we're moving forward to address many of these barriers. Our response has resulted in improved communications in the form of PSAs, social media and website postings, as well as infographics, and are representative of diverse communities and are responsive to the various languages, dialects, and responsive to the channels by which our diverse communities receive and share information.

Dr. Kimberly Lamar:

Testing efforts focused largely on our metro and urban communities across the state have been critical to COVID response. Our offices have coordinated testing efforts in partnership with local health departments and community-based clinical partners such as our FQHCs and our community faith-based partners. We've been able to engage our local officials in providing testing to our multi-family housing communities and been able to pursue and continue to engage and share information relative to improving the health and awareness of the COVID positivity in those communities.

Dr. Kimberly Lamar:

In Chattanooga, large events have been held to increase access, specifically to our Hispanic and Latino community. We have partnered with Cempa Community Care Clinic as well as the Chattanooga health departments. In Nashville, the coordination and partnership of organizations such as Matthew Walker Neighborhood Health, Connectus and Meharry Medical College have been critical to the continued testing availability across Davidson County. The faith community, as the Governor mentioned earlier, has been critical and continues to be a valued and trusted partner in the work that we're doing in terms of COVID response. Our offices is working collaboratively with our churches to provide community-wide testing. Most recently, in Nashville, we've partnered with Mount Zion Baptist Church to provide testing at two of their campuses. In Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, a number of similar events have been held and are continuing to be scheduled to ensure that that testing is available community-wide.

Dr. Kimberly Lamar:

Next weekend, June 19th and 20th, we are working collaboratively with several local churches - Mississippi Boulevard, First Baptist Broad, Divine Faith and Mount Zion Baptist Church Parkway location in Memphis - to provide community-wide testing. We are grateful for our clinical partners, our clinical partners in Memphis, to assist us in ensuring that these events are a success. More information on these events can be found on our website as well as our social media pages.

Dr. Kimberly Lamar:

Again, I want to emphasize that as we re-engage socially, as we participate in protests, as we gather together, it is more important than ever that we maintain the health, our health, to ensure our community health. This is important to realizing the justice and the changes that we are working so hard to realize. Thank you.

Governor Bill Lee:

Thank you, Dr. Lamar. I want to make a couple of comments before I ask Dr. Piercy to give her report on economic recovery. I have a lot of optimism about a lot of things in our state. We are in a process of transformation and that's a good thing, and one of the things that is happening right now is our economy has been opened back up and is beginning to recover. And our economic recovery group has been tracking recovery, and part of the way they do that is by communicating with businesses across the state. So, they survey a number of businesses about what's actually happening in their companies and with their employees to try to gauge and understand just what's happening on the ground in our economy.

Governor Bill Lee:

The economic recovery group fielded a survey and they shared some of the highlights of those, and I'll just give you a couple of points that were encouraging. They asked businesses if they have been unable to generate revenue. "Are you currently unable to generate revenue?" And the businesses that report that they were unable to generate revenue dropped in a one month period, because we've done this survey twice, dropped from 27 percent of those reporting a month ago that they could not generate revenue, to 12 percent today. That's movement in the right direction. Many more of our companies are back in business and generating revenue and beginning the process of providing opportunities for jobs for folks. The percentage of businesses that are reporting no layoffs or furloughs has increased this month to 64 percent. So, 64 percent of the over 6,000 businesses that responded to our survey said that they were reporting no layoffs or furloughs. So, our unemployment numbers are improving. It's very challenging, as we all know. Many Tennesseans are out of work, and that's been a difficult situation for sure. But we're moving in the right direction and that is very encouraging.

Governor Bill Lee:

Also, the majority of Tennessee businesses that were surveyed said they knew about the Tennessee Pledge and they were able to comply with it. That was encouraging. We remain encouraged. In spite of this tremendous health crisis and economic crisis, we have better days ahead for us as a state and encouraged by that economic report.

Governor Bill Lee:

Dr. Piercy, would you please come and give us a health report?

Dr. Piercy:

Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. Today's numbers will be out within the hour, so these are yesterday's figures. But the total case count was 27,575, with 9,127 active cases. We have now done over a half-million tests and that number continues to grow each day. As the Governor mentioned, I want to spend most of my time today talking about the nursing home visitation guidelines. As he's mentioned and as we have said just countless times, it is the most vulnerable population. The devastation that occurs when one of these individuals, a resident in a nursing home or a long-term care facility, gets infected is incredibly critical and is absolutely much worse than if those in the general population do. And so, restrictions are important. But social and emotional well-being is also incredibly important.

Dr. Piercy:

As he mentioned, the last few of the long-term care facilities are being tested this week, and so that will complete all of the testing statewide. And then beginning no later than July 1, and some facilities have already done it, then the staff will begin weekly re-testing in nursing homes on a forward-going basis. As I mentioned, our top priority is safety of both the residents and the staff, but we want to balance that with their social, emotional and psychological well-being. So, we are announcing the opening next week of limited visitation.

Dr. Piercy:

Facilities will have to meet some requirements to do this. They will be located in counties with lower disease burdens. They have to agree to meet the pre-requisites that are defined by our guidance and agree to the restrictions and screening protocols of those that come to visit. We are going to be allowing three options for visiting. One is outdoor visitation with proper distancing. Another is indoor or outdoor visitation with a visitation booth. Most commonly, that's with a Plexiglass barrier. And then finally, there are some very limited yet available options for in-room visitation because we do understand that there are some residents that aren't able to physically tolerate the other two options.

Dr. Piercy:

So, you'll see that guidance forthcoming pretty soon for facilities. I will reiterate exactly what the Governor said, is please give these facilities some grace. They have been under very strict restrictions for the last several months and it's going to take them several days or perhaps longer to be able to comply with our strict guidelines. And I do acknowledge that these are quite restrictive, but that's okay because we need to be able to do everything we can to protect this most vulnerable population while allowing for their social and emotional well-being.

Dr. Piercy:

Secondly, I also want to reiterate his comments about we have seen a slight uptick in our case count. This is not unexpected. People are moving about and we knew this was going to happen, but we are watching it very closely. Fortunately, our hospital resources are stable and are forecasted to do so, and we are in continual conversations with the Tennessee Hospital Association and many of our providers statewide, just to make sure we have good eyes on what those resources are. As a reminder, just because we're moving forward, don't forget the basic tenets. Distance yourself. Stay at home if you're sick. Wash your hands and wear your cloth face coverings.

Dr. Piercy:

And finally, I just want to reiterate our continued focused efforts on communities of color. I appreciate Assistant Commissioner Dr. Kimberly Lamar, whom you heard from earlier, as she explained our efforts to increase and expand access to testing as well as wraparound services. Our department continues to engage in culturally appropriate manner and our commitment to confronting racism and eliminating disparities is not just a focus during this pandemic, but it's for the long haul. Thank you.

Governor Bill Lee:

Thank you, Dr. Piercy. Thank you all again. We'll open up to questions. I want to remind you that Dr. Piercy is here for questions. Dr. Lamar, General Holmes with Department of Military, Director Sheehan with TEMA. I see Penny Schwinn back there with Department of Education in case anyone has questions there as well. So, we will... We'll open it up to questions.

Speaker 1:

Governor, the legislature has now passed a bill that would basically say you don't have to sign the Nathan Bedford Forrest Day proclamation. It's not the same as what you had proposed, which would have eliminated the day in its entirety. Given the national climate and everything that's going on, are you satisfied with that or does this not go far enough because [inaudible] the governor doesn't have to sign [inaudible]?

Governor Bill Lee:

You know, I think we're at a place right now in our country that's unique. This country has... I'll just say broadly before I specifically answer your question. The country is... Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, this country has been in a process of transformation from Day One. Moving, ever moving toward a more perfect union, and we're still in that process. And there are... In the last few weeks, we've had an elevated conversation, certainly around the racial reconciliation and disparities, and that progress... While we've made a lot of progress, we have a long way to go and that progress needs to be accelerated, and we'll take steps in that direction and I want to be a part of that process.

Governor Bill Lee:

This bill that lessens the height of the proclamation of this particular day that's particularly painful to African-Americans, that's an important step forward. I'm glad that they made it.

Speaker:

Do you think that it goes far enough?

Governor Bill Lee:

I think we're in a process. I think we're in a process in this country and I'm grateful for steps in the right direction.

Natalie:

[inaudible] Governor...

Governor Bill Lee:

Natalie.

Natalie:

Most of us in this room have heard that black legislators [inaudible] talking to reporters, pleading with their white colleagues to take stronger action on [inaudible] racism. And in most of those cases, they feel like they're... It falls upon deaf ears, that their colleagues [inaudible 00:24:13] just don't understand and aren't going to do some uncomfortable things. From your perspective as governor, is there a problem with racism in the Tennessee General Assembly, and what do you intend to do as [inaudible] to show this decisive stance against racism?

Governor Bill Lee:

You know, I think that it's really important that we have more dialogue and not less, and often we're so quick to draw lines and choose sides, and dialogue stops when that happens. And so, any Tennessean... And I think it's been especially made aware even in the last several weeks that we all need to engage in more dialogue. I think we've had a lot of opportunity in the last few weeks to have dialogue, to learn from one another, and I believe we have an opportunity for movement in the right direction. As I said, this country has never stopped in its movement in the right direction and we cannot stop now. In fact, we should accelerate that movement in the right direction.

Governor Bill Lee:

Dialogue, whether it occurs in the legislature, in the public square... I know for myself, having conversations with my family, with my friends, with law enforcement, with black leaders across the state... Dialogue has taught me that there are no complicated answers. I mean, there are no easy answers. The answers are complicated. But it doesn't diminish the value of those dialogues that will actually allow us to move forward. That should happen. It should happen on the floor of the legislature. I think there have been examples where it has happened in the legislature, even this past week. But I would encourage all of us.

Governor Bill Lee:

We're at a place in America that... We're in a unique spot. We're not in a unique spot in that change is happening, because it's been happening since we began as a nation. But we're in a particular spot where a particular issue has been elevated and we need to have more dialogue around that, and I look forward to being a part of that.

Natalie:

You mentioned the need to accelerate some of this progress because it is a process. There's going to be a large gathering of people outside the Capitol today, once again calling for the bust to come down. Are you ready to call for the Forrest bust to come down at this point?

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah, you know, I've spoken on that issue before, as you... You've asked me. You and I have talked about it, and Chris and I have talked about it. Multiple folks. I've said before, something should be done there. It's a part of the need for greater dialogue. There's no easy answers. There's no quick solutions. I've said at the very least, we ought to provide context. It isn't my decision, but I want to weigh into that. The Capitol Commission ultimately decides that and, you know, we've made some progress. We appointed new folks to the Capitol Commission [inaudible]. That whole process got derailed by COVID. There's now a vacancy on that. I'll re-appoint that vacancy and I expect that commission will be meeting in the coming months.

Governor Bill Lee:

But on the subject broadly, just like the Nathan Bedford Forrest Day... Nathan Bedford Forrest is a particular individual whose role in history is particularly painful for African-Americans and therefore we should consider things around that individual uniquely, I think, including the bust.

Natalie:

So, would you advise the Capitol Commission that you prefer it to come down?

Governor Bill Lee:

It's not my role to advise the Capitol Commission. But I certainly can make comments and will be over the time about how I feel about it.

Speaker 2:

Governor, great to see you. You talked about dialogue. You also mentioned racial reconciliation. Those are very [inaudible] concepts, but I wanted to ask you, I think the realities of having this dialogue on racism, institutional racism, systemic racism, for years, for decades and nothing has happened. And so, [inaudible] the leader of the state, do you think [inaudible] change besides just dialogue? Is there anything technical you're trying to push or [inaudible] besides listening to the black community and the Latino community [inaudible]?

Governor Bill Lee:

Well, I think opening up dialogue brings about change, and I think listening, intentionally listening, creating venues, meeting with law enforcement and community leaders to talk about law enforcement and the relationship between law enforcement and community leaders. Those are actionable steps. So, increasing dialogue will bring about an accelerated transformation on the issue, for example, of racial reconciliation. I actually think that's a very substantive thing to do and I plan to do so in the weeks and months ahead.

Speaker 2:

What does racial reconciliation mean for you and how do we achieve that [inaudible]?

Governor Bill Lee:

I'd answer that by saying based on the last few weeks of my life, reconciliation for me will be defined by listening to those who are most involved in racial reconciliation, and understanding what it means to them. That's going to help me in knowing how to go forward. I think being aware that my experiences only define my view, but others' experiences will help inform my view, and that's how I'll approach this.

Speaker 2:

I have a question [inaudible] Commissioner Piercy. You mind? Since the beginning, Commissioner, you've talked about how the state was expecting an uptick as we re-open business in the state. You were talking about you're going to be [inaudible] toward this number. Is there a scenario where you see that maybe that uptick can get out of control? And then, what are you doing to address that? [inaudible]?

Dr. Piercy:

Sure. I think that's something that's on everyone's radar, and so we're watching it very closely. But I'll point you back to something that... I remember it was in this very room. We floated the concept early on of flattening the curve, and flattening the curve is all about hospital resources and making sure that we have enough assets and capacity in our health care system to take care of any surge that might occur. And so, that's the primary metric that we're watching. As I mentioned, it's completely expected that the case count would go up, but I would caution you to not take that in singularity because you have to put that in the context of hospital capacity.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. Chris?

Chris:

Along the same lines as the previous question concerning racism and Nathan Bedford Forrest Day and bust, Governor, what would you say directly to these people who are going to be out here in Legislative Plaza in about 90 minutes? And a simple call, remove that bust. And they know that you can, like Governor Haslam, put a petition before that Capitol Commission. Are you going to do that? What would you say to those folks out here?

Governor Bill Lee:

You know what I'd say, Chris, is that I've learned over the last few weeks that my views need to be informed, especially on very important subjects that impact the lives of Tennesseans. And if I'm going to make a decision around something that is as controversial and that has as much negative impact in the minds of many African-Americans as that issue does, then I want to have dialogue about that before I make a quick statement about what I think should happen. It's very easy to and it's very tempting, actually, to find an answer overnight to very complicated issues that have been hundreds of years in the making in our country, and I'm not going to fall into that temptation.

Chris:

What's stopping you from acting and who would it hurt by removing that bust?

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. I've said this is a process and I'm going to follow that process, and that process is movement in the right direction and it's listening, and I intend to do so.

Chris:

And one quick follow-up, just if I may, on unemployment. There's been nearly 600,000 people file since early March. Do you know the sense of how many people have gotten back to work of that number?

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. I can't... I would have to get that from Department of Labor, specifically. Certainly, our unemployment new claims files have fallen week after week for, I think, the last nine weeks, which is a very positive movement, which means people are going back to work. But I can't answer that question directly. But I can get you that information. Our Department of Labor would have that information.

Chris:

I've been trying.

Governor Bill Lee:

I'll get it for you.

Chris:

Okay. Thank you.

Governor Bill Lee:

It would be a projection, right? Because we don't know exactly who has or has not. But a lot of that depends on their reporting or their claiming unemployment. But we certainly can make some projections there.

Chris:

There should be projections.

Speaker 3:

You've got about four billion in reserves right now and planning to add about 575 million over the next year and a half or so, year, 13 months. How bad, really, is the state's economic situation [inaudible]? Shortfalls. How bad is the state's economic situation, really, if you have four billion now and getting ready to add 575 million, even when you're taking revenue from here and there and trying to fill all these budget gaps?

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah. I'm not sure what your $575 million...

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] add 375 million or so to the rainy day fund [inaudible].

Governor Bill Lee:

Not in the new budget. So, let me tell you how bad the state's economic budget is.

Speaker 3:

But it's [crosstalk].

Governor Bill Lee:

It's a half a billion dollar shortfall to close out this year. Half a billion dollars. And it's projected to be $1 billion in next year. And in a state budget, one and a half billion dollar shortfall is a major challenge for us. It will require department cuts. It will require eliminating all of the increases that were placed in the budget before. It will require tapping into reserves that we have in different departments all across the state. It'll require a very disciplined approach that I feel very confident that we can make going forward. And that is in part what our reserves are there for, and they will be used.

Speaker 3:

But I was... [inaudible] said the other day that you plan to give 1.2 billion of the rainy day fund and then add another 250 million at the end of next year.

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible] adding 575 [crosstalk].

Governor Bill Lee:

I'll, offline, go over that budget issue with you. But we're making significant reductions in previously planned spending, including cuts in every department, and actually tapping reserve funds to make up the deficit, not add to those reserve funds.

Speaker 4:

Governor, getting back to the Renfro masks, Commissioner, you all talked about doing and conducting drug tests before making a decision. Did you all conduct a drug test and with whom and what were those findings?

Governor Bill Lee:

Dr. Piercy, you want to answer that?

Dr. Piercy:

Yeah. Related to the Renfro masks, we did initially pursue some independent testing, primarily because we didn't believe we would actually hear back from the EPA in a timely or directed manner. We were pleasantly surprised earlier this week to get a full report of safety from the EPA, which we consider to be the gold standard on those different chemicals, and so we have canceled our independent testing and are endorsing the use of those masks.

Speaker 4:

And what... I mean, what would you have done... Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has got 22,000 masks that he's withholding distribution of right now. What would you tell [inaudible]?

Dr. Piercy:

We've instructed our warehouse to go ahead and continue with distribution of those, and we would give him the same encouragement. As we've already mentioned, you know, as we're seeing case numbers go back up, cloth face coverings of any kind will be highly advisable and so, if he's got those sitting there, they need to get out in the hands of the public.

Speaker 5:

Dr. Piercy, before you walk off, and I have one for the Governor, what is the hospital capacity rate at right now? Do you have the number on that? And are you attributing the slight rise in numbers to protests or gatherings of that size?

Dr. Piercy:

So, to answer your question about hospital capacity, this morning, in-patient and ICU availability was both at about 20 percent of state capacity. If you'll compare that to when everything was closed down and elective procedures weren't going on, that was in the 24 to 26 percent range. So, we have seen the expected decrease in capacity related to the increase of elective procedures, but that is still well within reason as far as statewide capacity.

Dr. Piercy:

Related to your question about case count increases related to the protests, we haven't seen any kind of specific trend that we can link to that generally. More so around the increase in movement of people, particularly starting around the Memorial Day holiday, and have started to see that, which also does coincide with some of the protest activity, so we can't make that direct link.

Speaker 5:

Thank you. And Governor, since you've come into office [inaudible] so many ideas about criminal justice reform. Do you think that this is the time to change some of the willingness to tackle that in the General Assembly? Do you sense that changing? And Nashville has had a long struggle with trying to get body and dashboard cameras. Would that be something that you might look at putting a little funding into statewide to continue to [inaudible] that as an accountability piece for law enforcement?

Governor Bill Lee:

You know, I think the issue of criminal justice reform is... Yeah, it's really important. It's been important to me. It's actually important to the General Assembly. As you know, the legislation that we proposed on criminal justice reform was in the process of making its way through the legislature and committees. It had a fiscal note. It had costs attached to it, and so we made a decision to, as we did with the majority of issues that had costs associated with them, because of the economic challenges that we face, we made a decision to withdraw that. But I was very encouraged about the progress we made and I expect that we will make even more progress in that vein going forward.

Speaker 6:

Thank you [inaudible]. Final question.

Alexander Willis:

Yes, sir. Alexander Willis with the Williamson Home Page. Thank you, sir, for your time. So, on Monday, the Williamson County Commission, they discussed what the process may look like of altering its county seal which bears of the image of the Confederate [inaudible]. Now, they learned that the Tennessee Historic Commission body that you yourself sit on, Governor, would ultimately have the final say on whether or not that would be allowed. So, were the County Commission to pursue altering its seal, would you as a sitting member on that Commission support allowing the Williamson County Commission to alter its seal?

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah, I don't know about that process. I haven't looked into it. I think that the most important thing that that community can do, just like any of these topics... Like when Chris asked about protestors about the bust out there. The most important thing that people can do is communicate, speak their voice about what they want to have done. Those community leaders should listen to the people in their community and make decisions around that. Regarding the protest, I mean the process of historical commission and how those decisions are made, I haven't looked into that. But those community leaders themselves should engage in dialogue to understand the importance and to have conversation around those subjects that are particularly important right now.

Alexander Willis:

Thank you.

Speaker 6:

We'll go with a final question.

Chris:

Governor, you had mentioned just a few minutes ago that [inaudible] dialogue regarding the bust of Confederate General Forrest. Do you eventually see that bust coming down?

Governor Bill Lee:

As I've said before, there's a process to this. I'm not the... I'm not entirely the person responsible for that process. I have said this, though. Something should be done. That particular individual and his role in history is particularly painful to African-Americans in this state, and for that reason, I think there should be a strong consideration and strong dialogue around what happens to that bust. It's been talked about for a long time and there will be a process that determines that. It's not entirely up to me, but something should be done.

Chris:

If it was entirely up to you, would you take it down?

Governor Bill Lee:

Just like I've answered Sergio a while ago, what do I think about racial reconciliation? I, if it were entirely up to me, I would have the appropriate... I wouldn't go based simply on my experience in my life. I would have the appropriate conversations with people to inform my decision and then I'd make one.

Chris:

[inaudible]

Governor Bill Lee:

And that would be the process for me going forward on any of these very important subjects that we have going forward. Yes, sir?

Speaker 7:

Sir, what do you think [inaudible] the legislature is thinking about adding the Council clerk and the Senate clerk to the Capitol Commission. What do you make of that? Is that a move to blunt any efforts by you to [inaudible]?

Governor Bill Lee:

I don't know. They didn't talk to me about that. I don't know what their intention is. They didn't talk to me about it.

Speaker 6:

That's all the time we have for questions.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible] You talked about the bust and I have to push you on that because you haven't even [inaudible].

Governor Bill Lee:

Yeah, and until I've had conversation with black leaders and with others who have an interest in it staying there and until I engage in dialogue, which I think... You know, again, if I've learned anything over the last two weeks, it's that my own experiences don't define the path forward necessarily. What's really important is that we not draw lines and choose sides. It's that we understand that these answers are complicated and they require dialogue. So, what I would do is, I would sit down with... I would sit down with those who advocate keeping it. I would sit down with those who advocate getting rid of it. I would consider my own experiences and my opinion about it. That should be formed and shaped by those... That dialogue going forward. And I actually think it represents a very important process for making very difficult decisions that lie ahead if we're going to make progress in an area like racial reconciliation.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Governor Bill Lee:

I think one of the challenges for us in this country is that issues become divisive and they become... And it's counterproductive to progress. And the way that we eliminate that divisiveness is to come together and have dialogue going forward on something like that.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Governor Bill Lee:

Do I what? I'm sorry.

Speaker 2:

You talked about you'd like to hear from people who want it to stay up, people who want it to [inaudible]. Do you plan on meeting with people [inaudible]?

Governor Bill Lee:

I will. I will be talking to those folks going forward.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible]

Speaker 6:

That's all the time we have today.

Natalie:

Thank you, Governor.

Governor Bill Lee:

Thank you all.