NASHVILLE, TN — Once the state reopens, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says social distancing, proper hygiene, wearing masks and working from will be more important than ever before.
Speaking during his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday afternoon, Lee says those measures work in the fight against COVID-19. Lee announced Monday that the state's stay at home order will be allowed to expire on April 30, and the majority of businesses in 89 of the state's 95 counties will be able to reopen by May 1.
The governor says the state's economic recovery group is working to provide guidance this week for that phased reopening, which will start next week.
Some restrictions will stay in place, including those discouraging social gatherings of more than 10 people and visitor restrictions for nursing home and hospitals.
Lee says small, rural hospitals in the state are strained by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing suspension of elective procedures, which are a key source of revenue for hospitals. The governor says the first grants from a $10 million state program that was announced earlier in April have gone out to four rural hospitals.
The governor says those first four grants are going to Lincoln Medical Center, Henderson County Community Hospital, Lauderdale County Community Hospital and Three Rivers Hospital in Waverly. Lee says the state funding will help bridge the gap until those hospitals receive federal COVID-19 relief funding. He said those hospitals have "successfully drawn down $7.5 million in federal COVID funding relief."
The governor says the state expects to process and verify applications for Small and Rural Hospital Readiness grants from several more hospitals in the coming days.
Tennessee began to receive funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act last week, the governor says. Lee says the state is expected to receive more than $2.3 billion, and additional funds will go directly to Memphis and Nashville.
The Tennessee Department of Health reported 156 new cases Tuesday, bringing the total to 7,394 cases. Of that number, more than 3,800 have recovered.
Lee says the number of recovered cases is greater than the number of new cases that were reported Tuesday, which he says is encouraging.
The state health department reports that 157 people have died from the virus in Tennessee.