Story at a glance

  • “Our state is ground zero for a surge in COVID-19 and we need Tennesseans to [do] their part,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said.
  • Health officials on Sunday warned the state could “break” its hospital systems if residents didn’t slow the spread by staying home and wearing masks.
  • “We want to preserve access to hospitals. If we have another surge over Christmas, it will break our hospitals,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said earlier this week.

Tennessee has emerged as an epicenter of the latest COVID-19 surge in the U.S., as the state has recorded the highest rate of new infections over the past week, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data

The state averaged nearly 128 new infections per 100,000 people over the last week, the highest of any other state. California has recorded the second-highest rate, with 111.2 daily infections per 100,000 people. Tennessee has reported more than 546,000 cases and 6,430 deaths, according to the state health department. 


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“This week is ordinarily a time when families across the state are gathering to celebrate. Unfortunately, these are not ordinary times,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said Wednesday. 

“Our state is ground zero for a surge in COVID-19 and we need Tennesseans to [do] their part,” he said, urging residents to wear face masks, social distance and gather only with people in their immediate household over Christmas. 

Earlier this week, Lee issued executive orders extending the state of emergency in Tennessee through February and allowing county mayors to enforce mask mandates, but has refused to issue a statewide mandate. He also issued an order limiting indoor public gathering to just 10 people. 

Lee announced on Sunday that Tennessee first lady Maria Lee tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibiting mild symptoms, Gov. Lee said he tested negative and would quarantine as a precaution. 

Health officials on Sunday also warned the state could “break” its hospital systems if residents didn’t slow the spread by staying home and wearing masks. 

“We want to preserve access to hospitals. If we have another surge over Christmas, it will break our hospitals,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said during a news conference, according to the Tennessean

“Don’t gather with those outside of your households. We have to change our behavior over the next several weeks.” 


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Published on Dec 24, 2020