coronavirus 5

The Tennessee Department of Health has now confirmed 52 cases of COVID-19 across 10 counties, although state officials confirm that number is not representative of how far the virus has actually spread throughout the state. 

Last Thursday, Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency in Tennessee, easing the state’s access to more than $8 billion in federal government money authorized to combat the outbreak and opens up to the governor a broad range of powers, including ordering evacuations and quarantines and allowing him to direct the National Guard to assist in the response. 

President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency as confirmed cases across the nation continued to climb beyond 3,000 people. That freed up $50 billion to combat the crisis and empowering Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to waive laws and regulations to help contain the virus. 

On Sunday, Metro government followed suit. In an emergency meeting called by Mayor John Cooper, the Metropolitan Board of Health declared a public health emergency, granting Health Director Michael Caldwell a broad range of powers to help protect the community against the spread of COVID-19, which he used to shut down all area bars and limit restaurant capacity, effective immediately. 

Some bar owners — most notably Steve Smith, owner of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Rippy's and Kid Rock's Big Ass Honky Tonk — have refused to comply with the new rule. Caldwell said today Metro is drafting orders of compliance of be delivered to bar owners. 

"For those that are not [compliant], we will take appropriate action as we always do for any permanent facility that does not comply ... we will do what we have to do," Caldwell said in a press briefing today.

TDH declines to release state ventilator supply

President Trump this morning told a group of state governors they should take their own initiative to fill the growing demand for respirators, rather than lean on the federal government to fill the supply. 

But as Tennessee continues to take action to limit the spread of coronavirus and the health care industry braces itself for a massive wave of patients needing treatment for COVID-19 — severe cases of which require the support of a ventilator — the Tennessee Department of Health isn't saying how many pieces of the equipment they have on hand.

“We cannot provide that number as it is proprietary information,” TDH spokesperson Elizabeth Hart said in an email. 

Local officials from across the country have expressed concern about how prepared the health care system is to take on the volume of patients headed its way, specifically because of inadequate supply in ventilators and ICU beds across the supply. 

According to Eric Toner, a researcher at John Hopkins Center for Health Security who studies hospital preparedness for pandemics, an average-sized hospital with 150 beds would have around 20 ventilators. That proportion, if compared to the total hospital-bed count in Tennessee, would mean the state currently possesses a little more than 2,100 ventilators.

Steeplechase pushed back

The organizers of The Iroquois Steeplechase on Monday said they have postponed the 79th running of the steeplechase, which had been scheduled for May 9. Sunday’s guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks ends in early May and Steeplechase backers said they hope to announce a new date for their fixture very soon.

Room In The Inn suspends overnight stays

Nashville homeless shelter Room In The Inn is suspending overnight stays starting Tuesday, but will remain open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. providing meals, laundry and their other typical services.

In a statement, Room In The Inn officials said:

"Many of our congregational partners have canceled their worship services and activities at their facilities. We understand and support these decisions although this has significantly impacted the operation of our emergency winter shelter program over the past 5 days. As a result, we have determined that it is best to halt the shelter program 15 days early with Monday, March 16 as the last night of the winter shelter program at our congregations." 

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