Gov. Bill Lee declares state of emergency in Tennessee amid increasing coronavirus cases

Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency for Tennessee on March 12. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency for Tennessee on March 12. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency for Tennessee on March 12. (Dylan Skye Aycock/Community Impact Newspaper)

Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency for Tennessee at a press conference March 12 due to the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

“We have watched over the past week how Tennesseeans have come together to address the tragedy amongst our neighbors as a result of the tornadoes,” Lee said. “Now, it’s time, once again, to come together around a different challenge: COVID-19 in Tennessee.”

At the time of the declaration, the statewide total of coronavirus cases was nine, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Lee said he signed an executive order earlier in the day to request funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to combat the spread of the virus.

“This morning I signed Executive Order [No.] 14, which will move us into position to bring in additional funds from FEMA and relax certain laws which will make it easier to respond to this disease,” Lee said. “This emergency declaration is an important next step in our efforts to treat and mitigate the impact of this disease.”

Dr. Lisa Piercey, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, said the state lab had enough to supplies to test “at least 500 individuals” for the virus in addition to testing taking place in private labs. She said efforts are increasing across the state in order to “flatten the curve” and reduce the strain on healthcare facilities and resources by attempting to slow the growing number of cases.

“We’ve been ramping up our efforts for vulnerable populations, especially the elderly and those in nursing homes,” Piercey said. “Our hospitals have also made significant strides in the last several days on their testing and response efforts.”

The governor encouraged Tennesseans to practice good hygiene by washing hands often, covering coughs, avoiding face touching, staying home when sick and contacting a doctor if necessary.

“We can slow down the spread of COVID-19, and it’s critical that we can take steps in order to do so,” Lee said. “Stopping it from spreading quickly will ensure that our health care system can effectively manage the cases that present themselves in our state."

Lee said the Tennessee government is in daily communication with other states and the federal government and stressed the importance of encouraging citizens to stay informed through websites like and

“Every day, we learn more about this disease and its impact, and we will continue to adapt our position to fit what we believe is best for Tennesseeans,” Lee said.


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