TN lawmakers get crash course on novel coronavirus


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Like all of us, Tennessee state lawmakers are getting a crash course on COVID-19.

Health experts say it’s critical in how the government responds to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have to remain prepared to deal with this virus over the long haul,” Dr. William Schaffner told House members late Monday.

Dr. Schaffner, who has long told the world about communicable diseases, expressed some slight optimism about COVID-19 as he addressed the state representatives from the House podium.

“I am of the guarded optimism that we won’t hit the worst end of the spectrum,” added the Vanderbilt doctor.

As he spoke, some House members dotted the upper gallery where the public is now not allowed after the Tennessee capitol was closed this week to visitors and lobbyists.

Those lawmakers were practicing a form of what health experts have been preaching—social distancing. It’s keeping at least six feet apart from others in our day to day lives as a COVID-19 response all of us can practice.

The social distancing was urged again and again, but sometimes tough to practice, as other lawmakers were often in close quarters

“The reason for the social distancing as Dr. Schaffner alluded—if you don’t have the distancing, the transmission is very quick, it goes up high,” added Dr. Jonathan Perlin who is the chief medical officer of Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America (HCA).

The lawmakers were told to prepare for the worst and hope for the best with that emphasis on social distancing.

“Because that is the difference between a curve that looks very sharp and steep and high, and a curve that is tempered,” said Dr. Perlin to the House members. “That’s the difference between a curve that really taxes our health care infrastructure and a curve that our health care infrastructure can better manage.”

Hearing words like that led Tennessee state lawmakers to put hundreds of bills aside and concentrate solely on passing a state budget this week.

The governor says he will have a new state budget proposal on Wednesday.

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