State Rep. Kelly Keisling's Weekly Wrap (April 18, 2020)
Safer at Home Order extended through April 30;
phased economic reboot takes shape
Gov. Bill Lee this week extended the Safer at Home Order through April 30 to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and continue to flatten the virus curve in our state.
In cooperation with the White House, Executive Order 27 extends existing orders in place through April 30 and requires all Tennesseans to stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities.
At the same time, The Unified Command Group continues to consult with experts, analyze all available data, and monitor CDC recommendations to better prepare Tennessee for a phased economic reboot in early May. In preparations for this reboot, Unified Command will continue to focus on disease management, increasing hospital and testing capacity, and building up the state’s supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to support our health care professionals and first responders who are on the frontlines of this public health emergency.
Gov. Lee on Thursday announced a new Economic Recovery Group to focus on the phased economic reboot. This group consists of legislative leaders including the House and Senate Majority Leaders, the heads of several state departments, and leaders of industries that have been highly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Their overall goal is to develop and issue industry specific guidance so businesses can prepare to operate safely and in the best interests of the employees and customers when they reopen in early May.
The governor also announced the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group this week, consisting of both the House and Senate Speakers, legislative leaders, the Commissioner of Finance & Administration, Unified Command leadership, and the Comptroller of the Treasury among others. This group will ensure proper financial management of the expected $2.3 billion in federal stimulus resources on its way to Tennessee as a result of passage of the federal CARES Act.
State ramps up Covid-19 testing as part of preparations for phased economic reboot
The Lee Administration and the Tennessee Department of Health this week announced the state will also ramp up testing for Covid-19 as part of the plan to prepare for May’s economic reboot.
To improve access and allow Tennesseans to make informed decisions, expanded testing will launch April 18-19 as members of the Tennessee National Guard and Department of Health establish new drive-thru testing locations across the state. Testing will be available at selected sites each of the next three weekends with results available within 72 hours of a test being conducted. Citizens will also have the opportunity to get tested at every rural county health department in the state over the course of the other five days each week.
Expanded testing will be made available to all Tennesseans who are not feeling well, even if they do not experience common Covid-19 symptoms including cough, fever or breathing difficulty.
To view locations, please go here.
As of Friday morning, the state had performed 85,049 tests, of which 6,262 citizens have tested positive for Covid-19. Approximately 141 individuals have died, 691 have been hospitalized, while 2,789 have recovered.
Tennessee schools recommended to remain closed for remainder of school year
The governor also joined with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) to recommend that all schools remain closed through the end of the current school year to preserve the health and safety of children and their families, as well as the state’s educators and administrators.
To continue supporting students during these extraordinary circumstances, the department on Wednesday announced a new Covid-19 Child Wellbeing Taskforce to provide resources and care for at-risk and vulnerable student populations. More details on the taskforce will be made available in the weeks ahead.
Additional resources are available for children including ReadyRosie, an innovative platform that allows families to access a series of short videos and other online resources. The platform aims to provide support for children from birth through third grade to help continue learning outside of a classroom setting.
ReadyRosie is now available in Tennessee through Sept. 1. To sign up, please visit here.
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will also continue to offer two hours of daily instructional programming with high quality content for students to solidify their academic foundations.
To connect families in need with food as schools remain closed, TDOE has partnered with a vendor to make available a school meal finder website, which will help those at-risk find the closest meal pick up program available to meet their nutritional needs.
For more education news, please click here.
Passage of the CARES Act also includes one-time relief funding for local school districts to help address the unique challenges they face, as a result of this unprecedented health situation.
$600 federal unemployment benefit now available for Tennesseans
The state this week began paying approved unemployment claimants their first installment of the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit, in addition to their state benefits.
Approximately $94 million was delivered to financial institutions across the state for 110,000 unemployed Tennessee citizens. Most approved individuals began receiving the direct-deposit funding on Wednesday, April 15, with the number of payments projected to continue to increase in the days ahead and likely exceed 150,000 citizens.
New unemployment claims for the week ending April 11 were 74,772, compared to 116,141 new claims the previous week.
For information about unemployment benefits and resources available to those who have unexpectedly lost their jobs, please visit: Jobs4TN.gov
Easter evening tornado outbreak devastates Southeast Tennessee
Shortly before midnight on Sunday, April 12, the Chattanooga area was hit by a series of tornadoes that killed 11 in the Tennessee Valley, injured dozens more and damaged thousands of homes and area businesses, causing millions of dollars in damages.
The Easter night severe weather outbreak produced a violent tornado that formed in north Georgia and traveled 14.5 miles through Chattanooga, Ooltewah, and into Bradley County with sustained wind speeds reaching 145 miles per hour.
As of midweek, state and federal officials were on the ground in communities hardest hit assessing the damage. A major disaster declaration is expected soon, and these communities will likely receive additional federal assistance soon.
Sunday’s storms come a little more than five weeks after the March 3rd outbreak that caused catastrophic damage in communities across Benton, Davidson, Wilson, and Putnam Counties.