The world is at war with the coronavirus.
So, the state of Tennessee is organizing something like a military response with what they are dubbing as the COVID-19 Unified Command.
Last week, Stuart McWhorter was Tennessee’s Commissioner of Finance and was putting together an emergency budget.
This week, he was tasked by Gov. Bill Lee with overseeing the state’s response to the coronavirus.
“This never has existed quite like this,” McWhorter told WPLN News Thursday.
He’s in charge of making sure the governor has the latest and most accurate information on the disease and how it’s spreading in the state.
The Unified Command consists of five people, representing the Departments of Health, Emergency Management and the Tennessee Guard.
Three of the five members have a military background, including two generals. One is the Adjutant General of the Tennessee Guard, Jeff Holmes. The other is retired Brig. Gen. Scott Brower, who served in Army Special Forces and was a senior commander of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell.
McWhorter tapped Brower to be the Unified Command’s chief of staff.
“The way we are approaching this is — in a way — you would see other responses to war,” McWhorter said. “I mean, I don’t say that lightly.”
McWhorter himself doesn’t have military experience, but he is starting to talk in those terms.
“We are just going into a new environment, new territory,” McWhorter said. “There are men and women all over the country that are trained for these types of challenges, and that in essence, is the way we are trying to approach this.”
McWhorter’s background is in business. But he’s not relying on those instincts at this point.
He is cautious about following President Trump and former Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. They have recommended a quicker return to business as usual, in contrast to guidance from health officials.
“If in a few weeks we are in the same place and we are learning more about positive tests and there are still people who are still getting sick and those who are out in the public are putting themselves and their families at risk, then I would say it’s probably best to not do that,” McWhorter said. “I mean, we don’t need to rush into this.”
Instead, McWhorter said it will take discipline to defeat the coronavirus, which he calls an unknown enemy.