As the infection count for COVID-19 continues increasing, Tennessee is relying on its Novel Virus Pandemic Influenza Response Plan. That’s a 171-page document that lays out what steps the state should take to manage a highly infectious virus.
WPLN News spoke to Tyler Whetstone, a government and politics reporter at the Knoxville News Sentinel who read the full document and shares some key takeaways.
State Was ‘Methodical’ In planning
“The state’s plan has been followed almost exactly,” Whetstone says.
He says Tennessee has already enacted the vast majority of strategies laid out in its response plan including:
- Closing schools to mitigate the spread of the virus. Gov. Bill Lee urged all schools to close by March 20 at the latest.
- Considering the economic impacts of closures on parents and caretakers who can’t take off work. Lee has also called on Tennesseans to lend a hand with child care while schools are out of session or meeting remotely.
While the plan doesn’t have guidelines ordering businesses like seated restaurants to close, individual cities like Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga have restricted what services they can offer in the interest of social distancing.
The Pandemic Could Last A While
The state’s response plan, which was updated earlier this month, says a pandemic could last up to six months. It says it could be at least four to six months before a vaccine is released, even to the most vulnerable populations. The plan predicts it may take up to two years before a novel virus becomes routine and seasonal.
The response plan also includes guidelines for navigating a mass fatality incident. The section does not specifically address a virus-related event but lays out duties and rules for what to do if an area experiences more deaths than existing mortuary services can handle.
At the time of publication, Tennessee has reported no COVID-19-related fatalities. Follow the WPLN News Coronavirus In Tennessee: Live Blog for consistent updates on the pandemic’s effects in the state.