quarantine

COVID diagnosis in Senate raises concerns (UPDATED)

The Senate meets in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A state senator has tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the special session and other lawmakers and staffers may have been exposed, The Tennessee Journal has learned.

UPDATE: Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) has confirmed he has tested positive:

“I was informed yesterday afternoon that I have tested positive for COVID-19.  I am quarantining at home with mild symptoms,” Jackson said in a statement. “I have received excellent care and am thankful for all of our health professionals who are on the front lines in fighting this virus.”

One further senator is believed to be in quarantine, while another is remaining on duty because he already had COVID-19. The office of legislative adminstration declined to confirm or deny any infections due to privacy concerns.

The incident comes despite enhanced measures the Senate has taken to try to fight the spread of COVID-19. The upper chamber has required social distancing between members in committees and on the floor while banning the public from its meetings. But nothing prevents lawmakers from congregating in their offices, elevators, or hallways of the Capitol complex.

At least nine House members have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Lee emerges from 2nd quarantine, tours damage in Nashville

Gov. Bill Lee arrives for a press conference on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee announced on Twitter he has tested negative for COVID-19 and completed his second quarantine after being exposed to the virus. The governor also toured damage from an explosion in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning.

Lee lauded first responders for their courage in moving people away from the RV early Friday when a recorded message warned that it contained a bomb.

“The damage is shocking and it is a miracle that no residents were killed,” Lee said in a tweet.

Lee has requested an emergency declaration from President Donald Trump.

Lee went into quarantine after his wife, Maria, tested positive for COVID-19. He previously went into isolation after being exposed to a member of his protective detail who was infected.

One comes out, one goes in: Gardenhire misses fundraiser featuring Gov. Lee due to quarantine

Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) attends a floor session to adjust the course of the legislative session in response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican state Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) has missed a fundraiser for his re-election campaign because he was exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. The event was headlined by Gov. Bill Lee, who only emerged from his own two-week quarantine after a member of his security detail came down with the coronavirus.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports it’s the fifth time Gardenhire has gone into isolation over a potential exposure to the virus. The senator watched the fundraiser via a videostream provided by fellow Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson).

“I wear a mask all the time. All it takes is a split second and Bam, you got it,” Gardenhire said in a Facebook post. “Very GRATEFUL for all my friends and supporters. Thank you. Going to get tested Monday.”

Gardenhire is being challenged by Democrat Glenn Scruggs, an assistant police chief in Chattanooga.

Gov. Lee in quarantine after COVID-19 exposure

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee and his wife, Maria, are in quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 by a member of his security detail. The governor has tested negative so far for the virus.

Here’s a statement from Lee’s office:

Today, a member of the Governor’s Executive Security Detail has tested positive for COVID-19. Gov. Lee is feeling well and has tested negative for COVID-19 but out of an abundance of caution, he is quarantining at home with the First Lady until further notice. Governor’s Office protocol requires masks and social distancing and no staff are believed to be positive at this time. 

Alexander lauds coronavirus testing in Tennessee

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) speaks at a Tennessee Titans event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is presiding over health committee hearings while in self-quarantine in Tennessee, is lauding his home state’s COVID-19 testing regimen. But the Maryville Republican is warning that more needs to be done before college campuses can reopen this fall.

“Tennessee has tested 4 percent of its population. The governor hopes to increase that to 7 percent by the end of May,” Alexander said. “That impressive level of testing is sufficient to begin Phase I of going back to work in Tennessee, but as I said last week, it is not nearly enough to provide confidence to 31,000 students and faculty that it is safe to return to the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus in August.”

Here’s the full release from Alexander’s office:

MARYVILLE, Tennessee, May 12, 2020 — Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that COVID-19 testing in the United States is “impressive” and “enough to begin going back to work.”

“But millions more rapid tests created by new technologies are needed to give the rest of America enough confidence to go back to work and back to school,” Alexander added.

Alexander made his remarks today during the Senate health committee hearing — “COVID-19: Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School” — which featured testimony from Administration officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), about what federal, state and local governments are doing to help Americans go back to work and back to school as rapidly and safely as possible. 

“According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States has tested over 9 million Americans for COVID-19. That is twice as many as any other country — we don’t know what China has done — and more per capita than most countries including South Korea, which several committee members have cited as an example of a country doing testing well.”

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