Gov. Lee confident in decision to reopen Tennessee

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Lee says he’s confident in his decision to reopen Tennessee but some Mid-South leaders are concerned as health officials continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, Gov. Lee and his wife visited a testing site in Frayser then made a stop at the old Commercial Appeal building, which is being turned into a makeshift hospital.

Gov. Lee says the purpose of the new facility would be to help local hospitals in the event of a case surge in Shelby County and the Mid-South.

“We want to be prepared should there be unforeseen circumstances down the road,” Gov. Lee said on Sunday. “…We can support the local healthcare community, which is why we’re building 400 extra beds here.”

Gov. Lee’s statements still left medical professionals feeling uneasy about his decision and hope they will never have to use the building.

Local health officials say the new hospital is designed for the 14% of COVID-19 patients who require some form of supportive care before returning home.

“We’re trying to capture that 10% range to off load the hospitals because that’s a large volume of patients who simply need oxygen, maybe some fluids…” CEO of Alternate Care Facility Richard Walker said.

Walker says they expect the majority of the patients to stay anywhere from three to five days.

He says the hospital will have limited capacity to upgrade patient care if it is needed.

“We have a few ICU level and step down level beds. They would be treated, resuscitated and then transferred back to the hospital,” Walker said.

Several Shelby County leaders have shared concern since Gov. Lee announced certain businesses across the state would be reopening.

“Tennesseans have done what’s needed to be done,” Gov. Lee said. “The trajectory have gone in the right directions, the numbers have been good and that data is what’s driven our decision.”

Officials did say they did not expect to see any capacity issues with local hospitals before the makeshift hospital is finished in Mid-May.

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