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Roundup: Chinese Americans Donate to Knox COVID Relief; Kincannon Asks for Federal Aid

State of Tennessee

East TN Chinese community raises money to aid COVID-19 response fund

A group of Chinese and Chinese Americans living in East Tennessee or with connections to the region say they’ve added more than $10,000 to an emergency response fund.

A press release from East Tennessee Chinese/Chinese American Care (ETCCAC) says its members donated $10,525 within a 24-hour period. The money goes into the Knox County COVID-19 Response Fund, which was established by United Way of Greater Knoxville, Alliance for Better Nonprofits and the East Tennessee Foundation.

“We are blown away by their compassion, determination and generosity,” United Way of Greater Knoxville posted on its Facebook page.

“Three days ago, we were a group of seven, not sure how to help Knoxville,” ETCCAC co-founder Qi Sun said. “Now we are a group of 180 volunteers…committed to following the city’s guidance to do everything we can to help.”

ETCCAC says it’s now working on donating personal protective equipment to medical professionals, first responders and others.

UT confirms first case of COVID-19

A University of Tennessee staffer tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the university said Sunday.

The staffer was on campus as recently as March 16. UT Knoxville says it’s working with local health authorities to notify anyone the staffer may have come in close contact with. The university’s Facilities Services staff is also deep-cleaning areas where the staffer works.

The university declined to release information about the staffer, or the department or building where they work. The staffer is at home, recovering in self-isolation.

No plan in place yet for uninsured COVID-19 patients

TennCare officials and the governor’s office say they’re working with federal officials to come up with a way to aid uninsured Tennesseans who need hospitalization for COVID-19. But no plan is in place today, according to the Tennessean.

Gov. Lee said Friday he was considering using TennCare funds to pay for treatments necessary in serious COVID-19 cases, for patients who have no health insurance but don’t qualify for Medicaid. Lee said his office was trying to get guidance from the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) before submitting a proposal.

Earlier this month, large private health insurers agreed to waive co-pay and deductibles for COVID-19 tests. But an insurance industry group also said out-of-pocket costs for treatment, such as hospitalization, would not be waived. So in some cases, even those with private health insurance could face steep costs if they have COVID cases serious enough to require extensive medical treatment.

Executive order means statewide changes for restaurants, bars, gyms

Margaritas can now be purchased to-go and fitness classes could be held remotely, under an executive order from Gov. Bill Lee. Lee initially wanted to leave decisions, such as social distancing, up to individuals. He was also concerned about not making the economic fallout for restaurants and bars worse. But citing the public health need, Lee issued the executive order. It went into effect at midnight and lasts until April 6.

Restaurants have closed indoor seating, and are operating only through drive-through, delivery and takeout services. To-go alcoholic beverages are available to of-age customers with a food order. Bars are closed. The order closes gyms, but says gym operators should find ways to continue their work via video streaming.

Lee’s order largely mirrors those already issued by local governments in Tennessee, including Knoxville and Knox County.

The order makes a point of saying Tennesseans are not required to stay home. At least nine states have issued stay-home requirements. Lee said he didn’t want to keep people from making necessary trips, such as to grocery stores or pharmacies. None of the stay-home orders issued so far rule out essential trips.

Kincannon joins other mayors to ask for $250B package for cities

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon says she is among more than 300 mayors across the United States who are asking the federal government for $250 billion to fight COVID-19, keep city services running and aid families suffering economic effects.

The bipartisan coalition includes mayors from 48 states and the District of Columbia. The group says it wants the money to pay for localized programs to battle the spread of the highly contagious virus and handle the economic blow dealt to many low-wage workers who have been idled or let go as consumer traffic plummets.

“Cities are the economic engines of the nation and home to the workers who make those engines run. The result of the growing pandemic is that most of these engines, which account for 91 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product and wage income, have slowed, and many have stopped,”a letter from the United States Conference of Mayors said. It is addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.