154 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Tennessee; Shelby County mayor declares emergency as community transmission begins

Cases also confirmed in Fayette, Tipton and Dyer counties
Updated: Mar. 19, 2020 at 4:57 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee now has 154 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

There are 75 cases in Davidson County and 30 in Williamson County. According to the department, 26 cases are residents of other states or countries. In addition to Shelby County, there are now confirmed cases in Dyer, Fayette and Tipton counties.

Governor Bill Lee said Thursday among the 154 cases, only 15 patients are hospitalized. No deaths have occurred at this time.

The majority of confirmed cases in Tennessee is among the 21 to 30 age group, according to the state health department.

Tennessee coronavirus ages as of March 19
Tennessee coronavirus ages as of March 19(TNDH)

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris has declared an emergency as the county’s number of coronavirus cases increased to 10. The health department announced the six new cases Thursday with another 81 people being monitored.

“It puts us in a position to be prepared if there is federal, state resources that become available," said Harris. “It allows us to streamline the purchasing process if we need equipment and other supplies to render lifesaving aid.”

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter joined Harris at a news conference Thursday where they announced Shelby County is now seeing the beginnings of community transmission.

“Today is significant in part because of the declaration the mayor has made, but also this is a pivotal moment in the epidemic,” said Haushalter.

Speaking at the same news conference, Dr. Jon McCullers with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center said over the last week, even with the arrival of commercial testing available, hospitals have realized it wouldn’t be sufficient enough to fill the need.

Over the weekend UTHSC determined they could offer expertise and leadership by planning to provide testing more broadly in the community.

Drive-thru testing will occur but it has not started. UTHSC is conducting training with volunteers and medical school, and they hope to start offering testing within a few days.

Initially, testing will only be performed by doctor referral. Individuals who traveled in certain areas or have symptoms are first in line.

McCullers says there will be several stations at the testing site -- one for the individual to be added to the system and one where information is collected. The individual will then be directed to a staging area where volunteers can take samples to send off for testing.

McCullers hopes to do local testing at UTHSC within 10 days, which enables them to do it at a very large scale with rapid turn around time.

Elsewhere in the Mid-South, health officials have confirmed cases in DeSoto, Coahoma and Lafayette counties in Mississippi and Poinsett in Arkansas.

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