After the first confirmed case of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, was identified in Williamson County, state health officials said they are preparing for possible cases and are urging residents to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. Gov. Bill Lee announced the first Tennessee case in a press conference March 5.

“We’ve tested about 10 individuals in our state department health lab," said John Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health. "We certainly expect as COVID-19 expands in the United States that ... we’re anticipating more cases."

The individual with the virus, which health officials have identified as an adult male living in Williamson County, is currently being isolated at home while health officials work to determine if there others who have come in contact with the patient have been exposed to the virus, according to Dunn. The patient traveled on a nonstop flight from Boston, Massachusetts, to the BNA Airport; however he was asymptomatic—or was not showing symptoms—while traveling, according to the TDH.

"As you know, this patient is a resident of Williamson County," Dunn said. "The TDH staff have been in contact with the patient, and he’s currently isolated at home with mild symptoms. His household contacts are quarantined at home. They are in the process of being monitored and evaluated for COVID-19."

Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District official announced March 5 both districts will be closed March 6-9 to deep clean schools as a preventative measure.

According to the TDH, the virus is a respiratory illness similar to the flu in that infected patients experience fever, coughing and shortness of breath within two days to two weeks of exposure. Most people experience mild to moderate symptoms and do not require hospitalization, however elderly people or those with compromised immune systems and other illnesses can be at higher risk.

"We continue to emphasize that the current risk to the general public remains low, and the same precautions taken with the flu should be taken with COVID-19,” Dunn said. “While this is a new disease, we’ve learned that most patients with the COVID-19 infection have a mild respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath. A smaller number of patients have severe symptoms requiring hospitalization, particularly the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.”

To avoid the spread of germs, the Centers for Disease Control advises people to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, cover coughs and sneezes and routinely disinfect commonly-touched household items. The CDC does not advise the use of masks for people who are not sick so as not to take supplies from those infected or for health care providers.

"When you consider purchasing supplies to protect yourself and your family, we ask that you please only purchase the items that you specifically need and only purchase the amount that you need for those that you care for," said Todd Horton, director of the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency. "This will ensure that there are adequate supplies for those who have been directly affected by those tornadoes and for those who are actively working to help those affected by the tornadoes."

Residents are also advised to seek out reputable sources of information for updates, such as the CDC, TDH and the World Health Organization, to avoid the spread of misinformation.