Staff Report Graphic

Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday morning that Tennessee’s first case of coronavirus has been reported in Williamson County, south of Nashville.

“As of last night, we have our first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Tennessee,” Lee said in a press conference today.

“As confirmed cases surfaced in other parts of the world, we in Tennessee prepared early. Tennessee was one of the first five states to begin COVID-19 testing, and we continue to remain confident in our ability and in the measures that we are taking to prevent the spread of this infection now that it is in our state,” Lee said.

Coronaviruses are actually a large family of viruses causing illnesses such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). They are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted between animals and humans, and common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and other breathing difficulties.

According to the World Health Organization, the virus has infected over 93,000 people globally and killed 3,198 as of Wednesday morning.

The patient, a 44-year-old man living in Williamson county, recently traveled on a round-trip flight between Boston, Mass., and the Nashville International Airport. His infection was discovered days after his return to Tennessee, and he is currently under quarantine at home with mild symptoms.

The announcement comes a day after Lee announced the formation of a coronavirus task force, meant to coordinate the state’s efforts to prevent and treat a potential outbreak. Members include Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, among others.

Piercey echoed the Governor’s point on preparedness during the conference and talked about the state’s efforts before this point.

“I want to reassure you that Tennessee was one of the first five states with testing capability. We have been testing here in the state since Feb. 20 and have had multiple individuals tested, and all tested negative until the case that we told you about today,” Piercey said.

Piercey also said that while the state had a limited supply of testing materials, there was enough for now. The Department of Health later said in a release that the State Public Health Laboratory had enough resources for 85 additional tests, with overflow testing provided by the CDC if need be.

At UT, a number of measures are taking place. Chancellor Donde Plowman said a statement today that the university is canceling all of its sponsored international travel.

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