UPDATE: Household contacts of first confirmed case of coronavirus in Williamson County test negative for virus

The first case of Coronavirus has been confirmed in Tennessee. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
The first case of Coronavirus has been confirmed in Tennessee. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The first case of Coronavirus has been confirmed in Tennessee. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Update: March 6, 10:20 a.m.

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Health announced March 6 that the household contacts of Williamson County's first coronavirus patient have tested negative for the virus. Health care advisors are providing guidance to the family on how to prevent the spread of illness to others, according to a release.

To help residents stay informed, TDH has launched the Tennessee Coronavirus Public Information Line with the Tennessee Poison Control Center. Residents can call the hotline at 877-857-2945 from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

The TDH has also advised that people with concerns about their health should contact their health care providers. The Centers for Disease Control recommends calling ahead before going to a doctor's office to ensure they can take precautionary steps to keep others from getting sick.

Original post: March 5, 9:05 a.m.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced March 5 that state health officials have identified the first confirmed case of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, in Williamson County.

“As of last night, we have our first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Tennessee,” Lee said. “As confirmed cases surface in other parts of the world, we in Tennessee prepared early. Tennessee was one of the first five states to begin COVID-19 testing and we continue to remain confident in our ability and in the measures that we’re taking to prevent the spread of this infection in our state.”

Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said the individual with the virus is an adult male living in Williamson County, who is currently being isolated at home while health officials work to determine if others who have come in contact with the patient have been exposed to the virus.

“The TDH state laboratory tested the individual yesterday and has submitted the results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation,” Piercey said. “While we are saddened to learn this virus has now reached Tennessee, our recent preparedness efforts that the governor just mentioned have positioned us to respond swiftly and thoroughly.”

Lee said officials are activity engaged in a COVID-19 task force, which includes stakeholders from education, agricultural and health care communities as well as officials with the BNA Airport. The state is also in communication with the Centers for Disease Control, he said.

“As we’ve seen this week in Tennessee, preparedness is critical,” Lee said. “I have full confidence in our preparedness plan that we have put in place. I also have full confidence in our department of health and in their strategy from this point forward and in the preparation that was made prior to this point.”

Health officials said the patient returned four to five days ago from out-of-state travel; however, he did not travel internationally. Dr. Mary Margaret Phil, who has been working with the patient, said during a press conference he is experiencing mild symptoms, but was sick enough to seek medical attention. Household contacts of the patient are also quarantined and are being monitored.

“At this time, the overall risk to the general public remains low,” Piercey said.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 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.

TDH and officials with the CDC advise that people wash their hands frequently with soap and water and avoid touching their face with unwashed hands, especially the eyes, nose and mouth. Those who are feeling ill should stay at home. 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.

“While this is a serious situation, I urge Tennesseans to keep this illness in perspective as the vast majority of cases are mild and manageable,” Lee said. “Simple actions like washing your hands can go a long way in us together helping mitigate the situation.”

This story is developing, check back for updates.
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.