State Rep. Kelly Keisling's Weekly Wrap for April 4, 2020
Governor announces Safer at Home Executive Orders
This week in Nashville, Gov. Bill Lee announced Safer at Home executive orders designed to keep people home and increase social distancing in efforts to reduce an anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients in Tennessee.
Executive Order 22, introduced by the governor and both the House and Senate speakers on Monday, enacted safer at home guidelines in all 95 Tennessee counties. It is effective Tuesday, March 31 through April 14, 2020.
Tennesseans with non-essential roles including barbershops, salons, and recreational and entertainment facilities were strongly urged to stay home.
Thursday afternoon, the Lee administration introduced Executive Order 23, which strengthens the previous order by requiring Tennesseans to stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities. It comes after data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) revealed an increase in citizen movement across the state earlier in the week. Cell phone data provided by Unacast was also studied, and it showed an increase in cell phone mobility trending back towards pre-COVID-19 levels.
The COVID-19 Unified Command this week announced a partnership with LaunchTN to ramp up production of lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies by businesses willing to switch their models and produce resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 25 companies and universities have made significant donations of PPE and supplies to assist our health care heroes as they provide life-saving services to patients. 3D printing efforts at higher education institutions have also resulted in the production of 10,000 face shields. All 95 counties have received a PPE shipment from Unified Command with a majority of supplies going to rural communities.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Thursday also approved Tennessee’s COVID-19 disaster declaration. This will expedite the state’s ability to convert existing facilities into critical care centers while also expanding Tennessee’s hospital bed capacity by an additional 7,000 beds to better prepare our health care system for an expected influx of COVID-19 patients.
In partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA, Tennessee is currently assessing existing locations that can be converted into Alternative Healthcare Facilities. These locations include:
Nashville’s Music City Center, which will serve COVID-19 patients who need care but do not require critical care. The center is expected to provide spaces for more than 1,600 patients.
In Memphis, the Corps will build a COVID positive Non-Acute Alternate Healthcare facility at Gateway Shopping Center. Other sites in the city are also being surveyed to increase capacity, in the event it is needed.
The Chattanooga Convention Center and the Knoxville Expo Center will also serve as COVID Alternate Healthcare facilities.
Health professionals who have recently been furloughed or who have unexpectedly lost their jobs as a result of the unforeseen economic downturn caused by the pandemic can now register with the Tennessee Department of Health to provide care to COVID-19 patients. For more information, click here.
Additionally, our Department of TennCare has requested and received approval for an 1135 waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to help address a possible burden on the health care safety network and care for uninsured COVID-19 patients. The waiver ensures access to health services for our uninsured populations during this pandemic.
Citizens struggling with behavioral and mental issues will continue to have access to resources that meet their needs at this time. These include expanded telehealth services, as well as a 24/7 crisis hotline (855-274-7471). Tennessee has also secured a grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for the creation of mobile behavioral health care units for our rural East and West Tennessee communities. These units - in partnership with non-profit organizations - are designed to increase services in these regions.
Finally, uninsured citizens 18 years of age and older with mental and behavioral health needs can utilize the Behavioral Health Safety Network, which is available in all 95 counties. Through the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and 15 community behavioral health providers, adults who live 138 percent below the Federal Poverty Level can utilize this network to receive services that support them.
As of Friday morning, Tennessee has tested 34,611 citizens with 31,766 negative tests. Approximately 2,845 Tennesseans tested positive, 263 were hospitalized, 220 have recovered, and 32 citizens have died as a result of COVID-19. For additional information from our Department of Health, please click here.
Department of Education announces partnership providing early education resources to families
This week, the Tennessee Department of Education and the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation announced a partnership with ReadyRosie to provide innovative educational resources to families and children as schools remain closed.
Through ReadyRosie, our families will be able to access a series of short videos and other online resources to help support children from birth through third grade so they remain engaged and are encouraged to learn while they are home.
All videos for families with school-aged children are approximately two minutes in length; they feature instructional activities parents can utilize and share with their kids. Videos are available in English and Spanish, and topics include literacy, early math, health, and well-being.
This platform is now available in Tennessee through Sept. 1. To sign up, please click here.
Beginning April 6, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will deliver two hours of instructional television programming while students remain home through at least April 24.
Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program officially online
Friday, the Small Business Association officially launched its $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in efforts to support Tennessee businesses currently struggling because of the sudden economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
As part of the $2 trillion federal stimulus package, these forgivable loans are designed to provide incentives to small businesses with 500 or fewer employees affected by COVID-19 to keep their employees on staff. Eligible entities include sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals among others. If a business keeps all of its employees on the payroll for eight weeks, and funding is used specifically to meet payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utility expenses, all loan balances will be forgiven.
Small businesses in the hospitality or food industry with more than one location may also be eligible if their individual locations employ less than 500 workers.
The PPP is now available to all Tennessee small businesses through June 30, 2020. More information is available here.