By JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee disclosed Saturday afternoon that his wife has mild symptoms of COVID-19 and that she has tested positive for the coronavirus, while he has tested negative.
Lee tweeted that the positive test for his wife Maria was confirmed in the afternoon.
“I am feeling well with no symptoms and have tested negative for COVID-19,” the Republican governor wrote, adding, “Out of an abundance of caution, I will be quarantining at the Governor’s Residence and still plan to address Tennesseans about the COVID-19 surge” on Sunday evening.
Lee is scheduled to make a rare primetime address on Sunday evening about the COVID-19 surge.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.
In other developments, state health officials said 2,711 COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered in the initial days of their availability in Tennessee as the state grapples with a surging virus.
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, there were 1,640 new virus cases reported per 100,000 people in Tennessee over the past two weeks, which ranks first in the country for new cases per capita. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths has risen in Tennessee from 50 on Dec. 4 to 74 on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Health on Friday unveiled its online vaccination dashboard, which will be updated on Tuesdays and Fridays, accessed at https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/covid-19-vaccine-information.html.
ennessee frontline hospital health care workers began receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday. Tennessee estimates it has received more than 67,000 doses, including up to 11,000 extra ones because the vials may contain enough for one or two more doses than expected.
Over the next two weeks, Tennessee expects to receive 115,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which do not require ultracold storage that the Pfizer ones need. The state says the Moderna vaccines will be shipped to all 95 Tennessee county health departments, with smaller hospitals that are not receiving the Pfizer vaccine expected to receive them the week of Dec. 28.
Priority groups for the Moderna doses include frontline hospital health care workers, first responders, long-term care facility residents and staff, home health providers and student health providers, the state said.
The vaccines arrive at Tennessee’s darkest time during the pandemic.
The surge has drawn a repeat recommendation from the White House for Tennessee to implement a statewide mask requirement, which the governor has declined to put in place in favor of letting counties decide whether to require them within their jurisdictions. He has stressed mask-wearing is a matter of personal responsibility. Only a dozen other states lack a statewide mask requirement.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have found higher rates of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in the areas that didn’t require masks. Doctors in a Tennessee physicians group that has been calling for the statewide mask requirement for months say their facilities and staffs are now more overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients than ever during the pandemic.
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a surgeon and Tennessee Republican, has become a prominent voice in the push for a statewide mask mandate.
“Virus levels remain high and continue to increase, with new hospital admissions at all-time high,” the Dec. 13 White House report states. “Face masks must be required in all public settings statewide to reduce transmission across the state.”
The state’s new vaccine dashboard plans to include data on vaccinations reported in total, in the last day and within the last week. It will display the percentage of each county that has been vaccinated. Future versions will also provide data on Tennesseans who have also received their second doses for full vaccination.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
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