Bill Lee

Bill Lee

This is a summary of a virtual press conference that Gov. Bill Lee and Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey held Wednesday. Lee tested negative for COVID-19 after a member of his security team tested for the virus, but the governor and First Lady Maria Lee are quarantining as a precaution.


“Our hearts go out” to the family of Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman, whose death was caused in part by complications from COVID-19. He had 29 years’ public service and was the city’s first black mayor, and was an “icon.” Flags will fly at half-staff over the Capitol.

The quarantine of my wife and myself is being done “out of an abundance of precaution.” We will be working from home. Maria will be tested this afternoon.

Piercey of the Health Department:

Numbers are increasing. We learn there is an ebb and flow in this.

Our antennae are up, and we are watching, but we are not at a point where we are panicked.

Trends that are different from the past: the average age. In the summer, the median age was the upper 20s or low 30s. In the last 30 to 45 days, it’s up at least 10 years, and now is 43 years.

The average hospitalization age is 70. We always saw the rate in the older population, but now, the average age of infection is 43. This is no longer limited to younger people or college-age students. Also concerning is the death rate in rural populations is double that of urban populations. “That has been very startling to me and the team.” That is not entirely surprising as people with a higher risk of dying are those who are older and sicker. The risk of death increases for every 10 years of age, and with every comorbid condition: COPD/emphysema; high blood pressure; obesity; and heart disease. Many Tennesseans have those conditions.

It’s time to get a flu shot. The season is October through April. We have not seen a measurable uptick yet.


Q: How long will your quarantine be? The first lady traveled today with the education commissioner visiting a school in Middle Tennessee. Is Schwinn being tested? Is the school being notified?

Lee: We are asking the Health Department, but I assume 14 days. We are backtracking with the security member. I am not positive. It is not likely Maria is positive; her exposure was yesterday afternoon. Penny was not in contact with that person. We will confirm that today when Maria is tested.

Q: Was the test a routine test or did he test because of exposure or symptoms? The First Lady’s contact was yesterday. When was governor’s last contact, and how extensive?

Lee: My last contact was yesterday. My detail is tested every week. He would have received a test last week showing negative. He received a test this morning because he was not feeling well. He did not come to work today.

Q: When were you informed of that test, and was it before or after the First Lady left?

Lee: It was after she left. I got the information in the late morning.

Q: If you show symptoms, what will be the procedure, and who will lead the governor’s office?

Lee: I will continue to work, even if I have symptoms.

Q: Do you plan to take another test? You do not always have symptoms right away. How do you plan to move forward with daily tasks?

Lee: We already began to reschedule events. I will defer to the Department of Health on how frequently to test.

Q: There were efforts to get access to the red zone reports by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Why is Tennessee not providing? I am requesting a copy.

Lee: We receive information from multiple sources. We try to be as clear and concise as possible when reporting. Too much data from too many sources…is not always helpful. That data is available from some websites, if I am not mistaken. We try to assimilate information and report every day. Every county…we strengthened this week so people have access to one stream of information from the Department of Health.

Piercey: Our data in the state is more real time. We know where it is coming from. They have more of a lag. When we report our data…they take it from that report and combine into their own report. It doesn’t add any new data to what we are providing. The time lag and use of multiple sources can be confusing.

Q: If they are offering a recommendation for the state, why should not the public see that?

Piercey: In all those reports, the recommendations are what you hear coming from our mouths, from the task force. Birx is saying this: avoid large gatherings, wear a mask in public.

Q: Any idea where this guard was infected? What is the contact tracing look like? Is anyone else in the office infected?

Lee: We do not know. Contact tracing will be the same as with any positive case.

Lee’s closing remarks:

Maria and I are feeling fine. We received messages from a lot of folks.

Original story follows:

Gov. Bill Lee tested negative for COVID-19 after a member of his security team tested for the virus, but the governor is quarantining as a precaution.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s office on Wednesday afternoon released the following statement:

"Today, a member of the Governor's Executive Security Detail has tested positive for COVID-19. Gov. Lee is feeling well and has tested negative for COVID-19 but out of an abundance of caution, he is quarantining at home with the First Lady until further notice. Governor's Office protocol requires masks and social distancing and no staff are believed to be positive at this time. The regularly scheduled, in-person press briefing will be canceled and Gov. Lee will provide an update to reporters by phone this afternoon with Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey."

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