COVID-19 update: Lee asks schools to close

Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey

Gov. Bill Lee has encouraged all school districts statewide to remain closed through the end of the year, asking them to continue to adapt their remote learning initiatives for the duration of the semester. 

The governor fell short of issuing an order, saying the decision was up to individual school districts to meet the needs of their students, but that he hoped for compliance from every county. Leaders of Metro Schools and Williamson County's two school districts on Wednesday all said they would follow Lee's guidance.

The governor also announced Wednesday a new phase of testing throughout the state, with the effort to open up free testing to all Tennesseans regardless of whether they have symptoms associated with COVID-19. The testing will be conducted on weekends at drive-through sites around the state by the Tennessee National Guard and Tennessee Department of Health personnel.

The announcement came as the World Health Organization and other health officials labeled widespread testing, among other initiatives as a necessity to reopening the economy. 

The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed 6,079 cases of COVID-19 across the state, up 256 cases from the figure on Tuesday afternoon. Of them, 663 individuals have been hospitalized and 135 people have died, up 30 and 26 in 24 hours, respectively.

Nearly 2,000 test results have been processed and reported since Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 80,900 people tested.

In Davidson County, health officials have confirmed 1,492 cases of the virus, of which 67 Nashville residents are currently hospitalized and 17 have died. So far, nearly 15,300 people have been tested in the county.

Metro’s head epidemiologist, Leslie Waller, on Wednesday morning said nearly 466 individuals are being tracked through the county’s contact-tracing initiative. Throughout the state, Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said that number is in the “tens of thousands” and continues to grow. She said she is looking to add another 150 members to the contact tracing team by next week.

App sends cash rewards for sheltering in place

Hytch Rewards, entrepreneur Mark Cleveland’s transit-oriented incentives application, has announced that it is extending its Shelter in Place program and will waive all service fees for employers and governments that join the program before May 29.

On March 30, the company announced it had added to its app a Shelter in Place feature through which users can be rewarded with daily cash rewards for quarantining themselves. Through Hytch’s platform, which tracks users’ whereabouts, sponsor employers, government agencies and other backers can pay people to shelter in place. The office of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper was among the first to get on board with the new option.

 “Though stay-at-home orders temporarily hurt the U.S. economy, they're proving highly effective in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and will remain in place longer than initially expected,” Cleveland said in a statement. “As a contribution to coronavirus response efforts, Hytch Rewards is pleased to continue waiving all service fees for employer and government partners of our Shelter in Place program."       

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