Note: This story was last updated at 5:45 p.m.
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson on Tuesday outlined preparations in the city for a potential coronavirus outbreak. Two days later, on Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee reported that the first case of coronavirus, which has spread across the globe, has been confirmed in the state.
In Oak Ridge, Watson said, there is initial public safety planning to identify local efforts to protect residents, and local officials are communicating with schools and hospitals. The Anderson County Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Health are in frequent contact with the city, Watson said.
Procedures that are in place under the city’s emergency operations manuals are being adapted to account for the effects of viruses such as the coronavirus, and protocols and procedures are being established for city employees who will be in contact with potential infections, Watson said.
Oak Ridge officials are concentrating on public safety. They are working with nursing homes and considering scenarios such as this: What if schools have to be closed for 30 days? One option that could be considered in response to the coronavirus is suspending non-essential travel for city employees, Watson said.
He said the city is not receiving much guidance from the state and federal governments but is relying on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Watson gave information about the coronavirus at the end of his annual “State of the City” presentation to the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge on Tuesday.
Watson said direct communications with residents will begin regularly though social media, and there is coordination occurring with the U.S. Department of Energy, which has several large sites in Oak Ridge; media outlets; and state agencies.
During a Wednesday press conference, Lee said the first coronavirus case was diagnosed in Tennessee on Wednesday night.
The positive test result for the 44-year-old Williamson County man diagnosed Wednesday has been submitted to the CDC for confirmation, said Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health. The man has a recent history of out-of-state travel, and he is currently isolated at home with mild symptoms, Piercey said. He returned about four or five days ago. State officials are still collecting information about his travel. His household contacts are quarantined and isolated at home with mild symptoms, and they are being monitored.
Testing in Tennessee started February 20, and the number of people tested has been around 10. Tennessee is following the CDC’s strict guidelines for testing.
The Tennessee Department of Health said most patients affected by the coronavirus will have a mild respiratory illness with a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. No hospital stay will be required.
But a smaller number will have severe symptoms and will require hospitalization. That could include the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.
The Tennessee Department of Health said people should take the same precautions as with the flu: wash your hands with soap and water; use alcohol-based sanitizer if those are not available; cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands; stay home if you’re sick, and avoid close contact with those who may be sick.
The coronavirus was first reported in China late last year and has since spread to many countries around the world.
Trying to minimize the spread of the infection, Tennessee was one of the first five states to start testing for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, Lee said. The state has a COVID-19 task force and is communicating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.
“We feel very prepared as a state,” Lee said.
Learn more about coronavirus on this CDC page.