Vanderbilt researchers say Tennessee’s reopening process will be a test

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Vanderbilt University researchers continue to study data to create models for the spread of COIVD-19 in Tennessee. In a virtual presentation Friday, they indicated Tennessee’s next stage, which involves the reopening of some businesses, will be a test.

Right now, they report the transmission level for COVID-19 is one. In other words, if you have it, you will pass it to one other person. They want to get that number below one and think it can happen.

“We take this to indicate social distancing has reduced transmission of the virus,” said Vanderbilt’s Dr. John Graves.

But they said the next week would be a test, as Gov. Bill Lee has allowed certain businesses like restaurants and retailers to start to reopening with reduced capacities and other social distancing measures in some parts of the state.

“The motivation behind our analyses are to look at scenarios that illustrate how our economy can be reopened and we can all go back to doing what we used to enjoy and sustain that,” said Vanderbilt’s Dr. Melinda Buntin.

In order for the economy to stay open, data has to show Tennessee can continue to reduce transmission levels to below one, meaning an infected person would not pass it on to someone else.

“Strong public health measures, including widespread testing and contact tracing, are essential to maintaining this trajectory as we ease social distancing practices,” Graves said.

If that transmission number doesn’t continue to go down, they predicted the stay-at-home order could get reinstated.

The researchers cited places like Singapore, where they eased restrictions but then had to put them back in place because the virus started spreading again.

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