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June 18, 2020

Governor Lee:

Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today for our Thursday briefing. We'll receive reports from multiple commissioners, to talk about things like our efforts to get back to school in the fall, as well as continued public health updates. However, for my time today, I want to talk a little bit about some issues, important issues that are important to my heart. Governing is a job for the head and the heart but tragic events that have occurred over the last month have weighed specifically on my heart and on the hearts of many across the state.

Governor Lee:

The issue of racial reconciliation is not a political issue for me. It's not an issue between conservatives and liberals. In fact, we should firmly reject any attempt to make it such. But instead, address this as an issue that is, in fact, a human being issue, and for me, what is a spiritual issue. Remembering that every human being is created by God in His image and should be respected as such. There have been many flashpoints in recent weeks, and these flash points represent years of pain and years of long held attitudes of indifference. Yet the events of the last month have, I believe, created an opportunity for growing understanding and for striving for progress, and for rejecting any temptation to wave off what's happening in our country right now.

Governor Lee:

It's a time to engage issues of racial reconciliation, head on, because that is the heart of the matter. And to me currently, that looks like constant communication with black leaders, with faith leaders, with law enforcement. Scripture tells us that where there is no guidance the people fall, but with an abundance of counsel, their safety. And my abundance of counsel is diverse and thoughtful, willing to put voice to experiences that I have not had. And I'm grateful to those who've taken the time to speak honestly, to me about those issues. Make no mistake however, there is a tremendous distraction, pulling away from racial reconciliation as being the heart of the matter. Calls to defund the police or embrace lawlessness or play politics, are unproductive.

Governor Lee:

We're at a critical crossroads in Tennessee. It's going to require us to drop the political theater and to embrace the dignity of each of our neighbors. And symbols matter. Proclamations and statues are not just snapshots of our history. They are a window into what we value. For example, take the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust and the tension that it creates between elevating history and elevating painful symbolism. As I've said, at the very least, I believe there ought to be context around the bust, especially since Forrest represents a particularly painful part of history for African Americans.

Governor Lee:

Our efforts there were slowed by the events of last few months, but we're already working to fill the vacancies on the Capitol Commission. And those vacancies will be filled in the next few weeks, and we'll schedule a meeting soon after that. And regarding the Historical Commission, it plays an important role in this process. And I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the passing of the head, the chairman of the Historic Commission, Dr Reavis Mitchell. Dr Mitchell was a long time Nashvillian, who served as a premier historian and Dean of the School of Humanities and one of the most iconic historically black universities in the country, our own Fisk University. Maria and I offer prayers of comfort to his family, and certainly his passing leaves a void in our state.

Governor Lee:

Speaking of history and symbolism, we have an opportunity to mark a historic day in the life of this nation. And one of it is particularly significant in this conversation. Tomorrow marks the end of slavery in the United States on June 19, of 1865. And I'll be signing a Juneteenth proclamation to recognize this day, as it represents the promise of a free and just society for every Tennessean.

Governor Lee:

We are at a transformative time in our country, and I believe that our state can be a force for restoration during this time, and we can be an example to the rest of the nation. But before we have an opportunity to ask questions, we also have a lot of other important issues that we want to address during our time together. We'll be hearing reports from Commissioner Schwinn, Department of Education, Director Mike Krause from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Commissioner Ezell from the Economic Recovery group and Dr Piercey from the Department of Health and Unified Command Group. Commissioner Schwinn would you come up please and give your report.

Schwinn:

Good afternoon. Thank you for having me today, Governor Lee. I'm here to talk a little bit about reopening schools. It's an important time. Usually in the summer, our students are celebrating, they're on summer vacations, their teachers are prepping their classrooms for next year. Our districts are working really hard for what's to come. This is going to look a little different. And I think one of the things that's going to be really important for us to talk about is thinking about how it's going to be different. The number one question that our districts are asking us, is really about, what does next year mean? What does it mean for kids coming back? How do we talk about it to families? How do we talk about it with our educators? And most importantly, how do we make sure that our children are safe, and that they receive a high-quality education.

Schwinn:

The department has been working diligently with our superintendents over the last two and three months to answer those questions. We've been meeting three times a week, talking about things like nutrition, transportation, health, academic programming. We have monthly meetings that focus specifically on academics on the whole child and on educators. Over the last week and continuing into next week, the department will be releasing over 20 toolkits that cover a range of issues in a number of topics that are front of mind for our superintendents, our districts and our families. Those cover everything from nutrition, transportation, professional development, assessment, academics, staffing.

Schwinn:

We'll continue to release guidance documents and toolkits over this week and next week, and that will also lead into continuous learning plans for every school. We know that the majority of our districts across the state are really looking forward to welcoming their students back this year, I cannot wait to get back in the classrooms myself. But we also know that it's going to look different across the state. Our districts are different sizes and have different needs. And so certainly we recognize some will come back in person, some will be in hybrid models, and some will be completely virtual. Our commitment and our requirement and obligation is going to be ensuring that every student regardless of what model has access to a high quality education no matter what, every day. We are working closely with our districts to make sure that will happen.

Schwinn:

We're also incredibly excited to announce the launch of the Child Wellbeing Task Force. We've been spending the last two months since the announcement in April, working closely with our superintendents is the first part of that task force. We've been meeting regularly to think about things like how do we ensure children are fed during the summer? How do we do check ins with our students? And most importantly, how do we ensure that when schools reopen in the fall, that we will be able to welcome children back into an environment where they are taken care of regardless of what that looks like whether it's hybrid, in-person or completely virtual.

Schwinn:

That announcement and the list of names will be released at 330 today, and we're super excited about the number of partners across the state that cover healthcare, that cover community organizations, our public school districts, et cetera, who will be able to be part of that and help us to build out an incredibly strong framework that can happen at the local level. These are really difficult decisions. These are going to be very, very challenging times for our districts as we navigate to gather what public education is going to look like in the state of Tennessee. But the most important thing and the thing that our superintendents have been committed to is that our kids are safe and they are well educated. That will continue to be the priority of this department and will continue to be what guides our work moving forward.

Schwinn:

I just want to say, on a personal note, as someone who will have a young third grader but also who will be welcoming a kindergartner into the classroom and in a space that might look very different than what I'm used to as an educator, a principal or a commissioner, is that the teachers in our state, the principals in our state, and the superintendent and staff in our state have been working overtime to make sure that all of our families and all of our children are supported. I'm very grateful for their efforts and I'm very grateful to the Governor for supporting Child Wellbeing in such a substantial way. It matters very much for our kids. So thank you, and thank you for the continued support.

Governor Lee:

Thank you

Schwinn:

Yes sir.

Governor Lee:

Director Krause, you want to make some comments about our Higher Education efforts in the fall?

Mike Krause:

Yes sir. And thank you Governor, for the opportunity. What I want to share briefly is the fact that really since the day our campuses went fully online on March 13, we've been in a non stop preparation role to ensure that our 238,000 students return to 49 campuses this fall safely. That is a point in time at which public health is now intersecting with student success. The most important thing we can do this fall, is make sure that our students are safe. But as a state, as part of our economic recovery efforts, we have to make sure that we don't lose momentum in terms of post secondary education. We're three things.

Mike Krause:

First, we're ensuring that every campus has the opportunity to have realistic planning scenarios that occur even as we speak. Thank you to Director Sheehan and the team of TEAM, we're going to have a set of TEAM of exercise planners on all of our campuses over the next few weeks. And so when we face COVID related occurrences this fall, our presidents will have been able to work through a decision making structure now, to ensure that they're prepared.

Mike Krause:

Second, we've put in place a set of guidelines, the Tennessee Pledge for Higher Education that closely follow the work of the Economic Recovery Group, in ensuring that businesses had a template and a set of parameters to safely reopen. We put in place those guidelines now for our campuses. Working with our presidents, working with Commissioner Piercey. These range from really tactical things like protective equipment, to big questions around how you deliver instruction safely in this new environment. And I want to thank our presidents all of whom played a personal role in assembling the guidance.

Mike Krause:

Something I want to emphasize is that all of our higher education campuses are autonomous. They have local governing boards that will make the ultimate operational decisions on the ground. Our job as the state is to make sure that there's at least a foundation upon which to build.

Mike Krause:

And then the final thing that's happening is ensuring that, as senator Alexander said, "All roads back to college this fall lead through testing." And that's true in Tennessee as well. So working with Commissioner Piercey, General Brower in the Unified-Command Group, we are working right now to ensure that every campus that wants it has organic testing capability. That's important at the beginning of the semester, I think it's going to be important throughout the semester to surveil and make sure that we're able to quickly detect and respond to any outbreaks on campus.

Mike Krause:

With those three steps put in place, we feel really confident. All of our public campuses are planning, right now, to have students back on campus. And as you all know, higher education is about setting, and that setting is physically being back together. And we think we're going to be able to do that safely and effectively in just a few weeks. Thank you, Governor.

Governor Lee:

Thank you sir. Commissioner Ezell, could you come up for a report on the work of the Economic Recovery Group.

Commissioner Ezell:

Thank you, Governor. I'm thankful for the thousands of Tennessee businesses who are supporting the tenets of the Tennessee Pledge. Tennessee is showing the nation how to recover by helping economic spending, rebound this past month, and we are grateful. And Tennesseans are continuing to pay attention to safety measures, and we can expand on that success in a safe manner, and Tennesseans win. Today, with the announcement of our terrific Tennessee brands, companies and philanthropist joining our Tennessee Strong Mask Movement, we take another step in providing each other, in protecting each other while helping our neighborhoods in getting their livelihoods back.

Commissioner Ezell:

Jerome Powell, the Chair of the Federal Reserve, said just yesterday, "As the economy reopens, we need to do it in a sustainable way. It's really good if we can keep a distance, wash your hands and wear a mask. These are the ways we can help our economy continue to recover and recover quickly." Well, how fortunate are we in Tennessee to have such remarkable brands that can allow folks to show their loyalty and put on their affordable, favorite branded mask when they're in proximity of other people. So the list I'm going to read of these amazing brands and companies, most of which have donated 10,000 masks and others who have produced masks that will be very affordable under $5 all to benefit the health of Tennesseans.

Commissioner Ezell:

With the CDC's latest endorsement of how important wearing masks is when interacting with others, we're grateful for this tremendous donation of over $3 million in retail value, with more than 300,000 masks that will be coming in the following weeks to Tennessee.

Commissioner Ezell:

Now I get to introduce to you the Governor's Tennessee 30, and that list is growing. We have a regular mask model, Patrick, being joined by Lindy Bironas, who has been leading this effort for us at the ERG, who will show off just a few of the branded masks that have already been produced by these companies. But listen to this impressive list of Tennessee brands and companies who have already made this commitment.

Commissioner Ezell:

Amazon, Austin Peay State University, Belmont University courtesy of Marty and Betty Dickens, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, Bridgestone, Bristol Motor Speedway, Chevrolet, East Tennessee State University, FedEx Express, the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Seviereville of Sevier County. Gibson brands, Graceland. Jack Daniels, Lipscomb University, the Memphis Grizzlies. Middle Tennessee State University, the Nashville Predators, the National Soccer Club, courtesy of john Ingram and Ingram charities, Ryman Hospitality Properties, Something Inked, Tennessee Bankers Association, Tennessee Farm Bureau Health Plans, Tennessee Tech University, the Tennessee Titans, Tractor Supply Company, Trust Our Health, Union University, the University of Memphis, the University of Tennessee courtesy of Randy Boyd and the Boyd Foundation, the union group, Vanderbilt University and Volkswagen Chattanooga.

Commissioner Ezell:

And literally after our press release, Governor, we've already had some people call in the last 15 minutes to start signing up. But these brands and companies are posted on the tnpledge.com website. And if your company is interested in joining our mass movement, then please sign up there. And also starting today, the public can purchase these Tennessee strong mass directly from the website. So this is how we win in our battle against this pandemic that's a threat to lives and livelihoods. We take these measures to reopen our economy with safety as our highest priority. Today with this Tennessee Strong MasK Movement, it shows how Tennesseans continue to help Tennesseans. Thank you.

Governor Lee:

Thank you [inaudible]. Thank you, Commissioner. We have a little fun in our reports as well. But actually, as Dr Piercey comes up to give her health report, we're reminded that this mask effort is a fun introduction about a very serious subject, and that is the subject of COVID and the need for Tennesseans to continue in their efforts to be diligent and vigilant in social distancing practices, and wearing masks and washing hands more than ever, particularly as our case counts have picked up. And we are tracking that closely to make sure that we have appropriate capacity, and Dr Piercey will address that. But we, now more than ever, as we've opened our economy and allowed people to begin to go back to work and to create economic recovery in Tennessee, we have to continue to remember the efforts that Tennesseans have made to get us to this place and those efforts that we have to continue to make going forward. So, Dr Piercey.

Dr Piercey:

Thank you, Governor. Thank you, Commissioner Ezell for making masks cool. I heard a lot of the brands that I like, and so I'll be reaching out to you to get some of those. And I want to remind you that masks are not a political statement. They're a sign that you care for your neighbor and that you care for yourself. So please wear them anytime you're out in public. Case count today, 32,829 with 10,371 active cases, and almost 22,000 of the total have recovered.

Dr Piercey:

Cumulatively, since this began, just over 2200 Tennesseans have been hospitalized, which creates about a 7% hospitalization rate. But something that we're even more proud of, is that our mortality rate, or the percentage of people that have died in Tennessee, is 1.55%. We've had 509 deaths, and that's 509 too many. But our death rate here in Tennessee is one of the lowest in the nation. And that is because Tennesseans are doing their part, and we're doing our part to offer testing and accessible care for those who may be infected.

Dr Piercey:

As you know, we have seen a gradual increase in numbers over the last few weeks. This is what we expected, we're not alarmed by it. Because as people move about and have more contact with one another, the opportunity for disease spread does go up. These numbers have been largely concentrated in our metro areas, and that makes sense because of the population density, but we're also seeing increases, sometimes double digit increases daily, in rural areas, in areas where tourists often visit. In all of this, I'll remind you that we have always had a focus on flattening the curve, which means we want to preserve our hospital capacity, in more than anything. It has never been our expectation that we would eliminate case transmission. That's not going to be possible until we have had immunity. But we can keep an eye on hospital capacity and make sure that is preserved for the sickest ones who need that.

Dr Piercey:

Our number of hospitalized patients has also grown gradually, but I will note not as much as case count has. Our hospitalization rate is lower. And we attribute that, in large part, to a lower age range of cases that we've had. In the last week or so, we've seen approximately 400 patients hospitalized per day. That's an every day number, not 400 new ones per day. And although 400 across the state sounds high, I want you to keep that in perspective. That's only about 4% of everybody, in the hospital in Tennessee right now, is a COVID related hospitalization. So although we are seeing those numbers increase, it's still very manageable, and we are not in a crisis scenario.

Dr Piercey:

As we continue to watch capacity and work with our hospital partners, we keep a close eye on hospital surge plans, and what hospitals can do within their walls to take care of an increased patient load if it comes. We also continue to prepare and train for our alternative care sites, both in Memphis and Nashville, in case of a disaster, where we have to use that additional capacity.

Dr Piercey:

Finally, I want to give you an update on our testing efforts. We have essentially finished our widespread testing of long term care facilities. You'll recall that we have about 700 long term care facilities across the state, and about 97% of them are complete with their widespread testing of residents and staff. For the remaining couple of dozen, we're working with them to ensure their compliance before the deadline. We've also made significant strides in testing efforts with higher education, as director Krause mentioned, as well as with many industry partners, and we hope to be able to tell you more about that in the coming days.

Dr Piercey:

Finally, we continue our community based testing efforts with a special emphasis on our minority and underserved populations. There is a large event in Memphis, coordinating with the Juneteenth celebration, tomorrow and Saturday. And if you're in the Memphis, Shelby area, I encourage you to look that up and go take advantage of that. Finally, wash your hands, wear your face covering, keep your distance and we'll all get through this just fine.

Governor Lee:

Thank you, Dr Piercey. Thank you, each of you commissioners just for being here. We'll take questions now knowing who is in the room and the folks that can answer questions that I might not be able to answer. So, happy to open it up for questions. [inaudible]. Go ahead Sergio.

Sergio:

Thank you, Governor, thank you [inaudible] for talking to us today. I'm going to ask you a COVID related question. I wanted to ask you, you've drawn up account that, [inaudible] COVID pressures in Tennessee, possibly on Latinos, [inaudible] that are calling on your administration [inaudible] to establish a plan to address this statistic and to tackle this issue, [inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

Yeah, that's a pure sentiment, I'm gonna let you answer, because you more specifically can. But I will just tell you that we have strategically made concerted efforts to reach minority communities including the Hispanic community, we have a particular challenge there with regard to numbers and the number of cases that we've had. And as such, we've made specific efforts. You want to address those?

Dr Piercey:

It's good question Sergio, and you're exactly right.that the proportion of our cases amongst the Latin X community is disproportionately high compared to our general population. We have made several efforts as the governor mentioned, specifically in the Chattanooga, Hamilton area where a large percentage of all cases there are of Hispanic ethnicity, working with FQHCs, faith based organizations, community groups, and specifically advocacy groups, just as you mentioned, to provide for culturally appropriate, culturally sensitive testing and access to care to make sure we remove any barrier we can. Because we know that even on a sunny day, sometimes that population has increased barriers to access. And so specifically in this very critical time, we want to make sure we're addressing that. And I think we're doing a pretty good job of that, specifically in Chattanooga, but also statewide.

Sergio:

Can you address the translation of documents and our efforts to reach-

Dr Piercey:

Yes, sir. So I also want to reassure you that all of our educational materials, all of our testing advertisements, many of our messaging and advertising pieces are translated into Spanish, but also in many, many other languages. We have recognized throughout this entire response, that people of different ethnicities, because of cultural factors, oftentimes live in multi generational households, English is not their first language.And particularly when it comes to medical information, even if they're fluent in English, sometimes they want and understand medical information better in their native language. So we've made extensive efforts to translate all of our information in multiple languages in order to give the best possible care we can.

Governor Lee:

And I'll add that we are engaging the faith community as well. I was on a call with several dozen Hispanic pastors across the state to talk specifically about how they could communicate with, and encourage the Hispanic community to engage in testing, working with them to remove barriers to that testing. So, we recognize that it's very important that we reach every sector of our population, to make sure that folks get tested, and that we can mitigate spread or disease across the state.

Speaker 7:

So the expanded testing is also part of this strategy?

Governor Lee:

That's right. And we have, in fact, put messaging on Spanish speaking radio stations and across the state in various places particularly, where we know that we've had a rise in cases to get the message out to get the word out. That it's important that we want folks to get tested and that we want them to understand that we're trying to remove the virus at testing. [inaudible].

Speaker 8:

Governor, you said that you [inaudible].

Governor Lee:

Yeah. Well, I certainly think the first step is to is to make this proclamation, I haven't considered anything beyond that, but I'm proud to make that proclamation tomorrow.

Speaker 8:

So I'm curious, your comments are, you talked about reconciliation in the past week as well, you chose to expand on that today, did you get a feedback why [inaudible] or your comments from last week?

Governor Lee:

Certainly, the nation is talking about racial reconciliation, and appropriately so. And I said, now is the time to engage. We're at a historic point in our country, and I want to take advantage of that historic moment, and to engage head on, and that means daily conversations with, I said, black leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement. Those have occurred throughout this week, previous weeks, and will continue into the weeks and months ahead. So it's a national conversation, it's an important conversation, and it's one that we're having everyday. [inaudible].

Natalie:

Hello Governor.

Governor Lee:

Natalie.

Natalie:

[inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

Well, have it just, even last week and even today. So there's a process there and I want to follow that process. It's a process that is a part of this State, and we need to follow that process. So I'll be filling vacancies on the Capitol Commission, and calling that Capitol Commission to meet. As you know, it's the commission's decision. And I have stated that something should be done, at the very least, we should provide context. But I also want to give the Capitol Commission the opportunity to research and to have conversations and to do the very same thing that I'm doing to make decisions about what the future holds there.

Natalie:

Have you got any more [inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

Yeah. I referenced in my comments that my counsel, in conversations and dialogue, my efforts have been to communicate with folks to put voices to experiences that I haven't had, and that's happened. Any time that we can engage with one another in meaningful dialogue to find solutions to challenges that we face in this country and in Tennessee, I think that's the way to do it. To not draw lines and divide, but to actually break walls down and come together to have dialogue around those very important issues for all Tennesseans, and that's going to be my approach. And I think that's how our State can lead.

Natalie:

And then on the budget, the housing senator is in a stalemate right now, [inaudible] today said that it's looking like the [inaudible] budget might be a very reliable option. Are you comfortable with that budget? Would you be okay with that approach if they all just dropped what they're doing and went back to that?

Governor Lee:

I trust the process of legislation. And the way it works is, I present a budget that I think is the right budget for the State, but the legislature has the responsibility of voting to approve either that budget or an amended budget, and that's exactly what's happening. And I trust that process, I suspect and believe that they will come to an agreement and have a budget that they will pass. Beyond that, I can't speak to what will happen. But we'll certainly deal with whatever comes, whatever the legislature thinks appropriate. [inaudible]

Speaker 10:

[inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

Well, what I have said is that, what I believe is the best budget is the one I presented. That's the budget that I think is best for the State of Tennessee, but again, I trust the process, and that process will bring forth a budget that the State will follow. And there's a lot yet to be worked out, evidently, between those two bodies. But this is what they do, this how it works. This is historically what happens, and they'll come together and pass a budget.

Speaker 10:

Well, considering [inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

It just means that I present to the legislature what I believe is the best way forward for the State, and then they have the ultimate responsibility of crafting that budget.

Speaker 11:

Governor, beyond conversation, what do you see as your role in enforcing racial reconciliation in the State?

Governor Lee:

Well, conversation leads to action, but first you have to have conversation. And it's not just talk, It's talk about actions that will provide solutions. That's why you bring together black leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement to then, not just talk about racial reconciliation, but talk about actions that we can agree upon to move forward that will make progress. We have an opportunity to learn and to make progress, and that's how you do it.

Speaker 11:

If I could follow up on that, and I think you've given answers before, but have you considered [inaudible] what's up on the people who have been around the capital protesting questions about race that are brought up in the State? [inaudible] with them.

Governor Lee:

Well, I want to meet with anyone who is having, what I believe to be productive dialogue going forward. So, as I've said before, defunding the police or embracing lawlessness is not productive. My conversations and my input has been from folks who want to come together to find solutions going forward.

Speaker 11:

And then, if I may, one more question concerning the [inaudible] with folks who are representing [inaudible], and those kind of groups, who obviously, they're the ones who have [inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

Yeah, I've had conversations with folks who advocate for keeping the [inaudible], and for those who want to have it removed, and I'll continue to do so.

Speaker 12:

[inaudible]. The State house just passed the abortion legislation [inaudible], I just want to know what you were going to do now [inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

Well, certainly I brought that forward and I believe that life is precious, every human being is created, as I said earlier, in the image of God, and protecting those lives is important to me. This legislation is an effort to do that. And I certainly hope it is passed in the senate as well. [inaudible].

Speaker 13:

So nearly a perspective question, [inaudible]

Governor Lee:

Well, let me just say, there are a lot of things that I don't know. It's one of the real values of coming together with people who know things that you don't and being able to share the things that you know, that they might not. Understanding other people's experiences and understanding the experiences that you have and have not had is part of productive conversation. I've certainly had a lot of those productive conversations over the last few weeks, actually over the last years.

Governor Lee:

I have, in my life, made an effort to serve others in other ways, people that are very different from me, and that have very different life circumstances. Whether it was in Africa, Haiti or Mexico, or downtown Nashville. And this opportunity that we have, for me, is a chance to be more intentional about that, and to engage in a way that is even more productive than has been in my own life.

Speaker 13:

One more if I may, just to follow up on [inaudible], if there is any [inaudible], is there anything about continuing that [inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

We have a really difficult job ahead of us in State government. Regardless of the budget that is passed, or the budget that we determine we will be implementing, it's a very difficult job. We've had the most rapid decline in our economy in the history of America, and Tennessee has certainly felt that. The revenue changes that we face present an enormous challenge. Well, as I've said before, experiences that I have in business have informed my view of how we are to approach this. It's not the first time that our State has faced real economic challenges. I feel confident in our ability to take the circumstances that we have before us and do what's fiscally responsible, and to protect the tax payer money, and to provide a budget and an operation of the State of Tennessee that will serve Tennesseans well, both from a economically, fiscally responsible stand point, and from the services, protecting and preserving the services that the State should provide to its citizens.

Speaker 14:

Governor, thank you for your time. [inaudible] dropped some letter, two weeks ago, requesting that all restrictions be lifted [inaudible]. Is this something your office is considering, restricting [inaudible] on specific counties according to the number of COVID cases [inaudible]?

Governor Lee:

I've gotten a lot of input over the last months, since our first case of COVID, that's been helpful. Input from local leaders about what's happening on the ground in their communities. And that's true of Macon County or any other county in this State. We have weekly calls with County mayors of every County across the State. We have had daily calls with our mayors and leaders of our largest municipal areas. I've had a belief that the best way to approach this is to engage in dialogue with local leaders about what's best for our State.

Governor Lee:

But we have made the decision to approach this from the stand point of 89 counties that have health departments that fall under the Authority to State, and the remaining six counties that have their own operated State departments, we have worked with them to work together to make decisions that are best for their communities. That's the approach that we'll take going forward.

Governor Lee:

Thank you all for being here. And again, we're at very important and historic time in our State. We should take advantage of that opportunity, whether it's this pandemic, whether it's coming together around the tragedies we faced, or the current national conversation. And I am honored to be in the place just to do that. So thank for joining us, and we will return. Thank you.