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Rate of local COVID-19 testing increases
Nolan Ming - press conference.jpg
City administrator Nolan Ming says McMinnville officials are waiting to determine the impact stay-at-home restrictions will have on tax revenue. A video of the press conference can be viewed on the Standard’s Facebook page.

More people are getting tested for COVID-19 because the tests are more readily available.

That information was released Tuesday morning at the county’s weekly coronavirus press conference. Among the speakers was Sgt. Matthew Coffman, a member of the Tennessee National Guard who has been assisting with free testing at our local Health Department on Sparta Street.

“When we first deployed here, we were testing about 10 people a day,” said Sgt. Coffman. “In the last week, week and a half, we’ve had those numbers increase to between 40 and 50 people a day. It’s very important to have the tests to make sure you’re not passing the virus on to anyone else. Just because you’re not showing signs or symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have it. We had one come back this past week where they had no signs, no symptoms, and they tested positive so we want to make sure we’re keeping everyone safe.”

Saint Thomas River Park CEO Dale Humphrey said current models suggest Tennessee will have in the neighborhood of 231 COVID-19 deaths if current trends hold. The state Department of Health reported 170 deaths as of Thursday.

“Any additional outbreaks or surges could result in a higher mortality rate,” said Humphrey. “Some studies say COVID-19 is 10 times more deadly than the flu and we need to be mindful of that as we begin to relax some of the restrictions put in place by our state and local officials.”

Humphrey emphasized social distancing is responsible for where we are today with a lower death toll than initially feared and fewer hospitalizations.

Humphrey said Saint Thomas River Park has averaged 34 in-patients over the past few days, none of whom have tested positive for COVID-19. Saint Thomas River Park is making plans to resume elective surgeries in the next few weeks and hospital staff will be overly cautious to ensure the safety of patients, he noted.

McMinnville city administrator Nolan Ming discussed the economic impact of the virus at Tuesday’s press conference.

“Another challenge that we see on the horizon is our upcoming budget,” said Ming. “How will declines in revenue factor in. This has yet to be determined.”

Ming said city ballfields and playgrounds remain closed, although walking trails remain open to visitors.

County Executive Jimmy Haley said local officials are waiting for more guidance on how to proceed after Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday he would not be extending his safer-at-home orders past April 30.

“We all await the guidelines from our president and our governor as we prepare our new plans of operation to meet our community’s needs,” said Haley. “Residents, just to warn, this crisis is not over yet. There’s much ahead to still be considered. We can do this. We always have. We always will.”