Hospitals to Resume Services, but Visitor Restrictions Remain in Place
During a county health briefing Friday Dr. Keith Gray, the chief medical officer at the University of Tennessee, said hospitals are planning to add low-risk inpatient surgeries on May 18. There are plans to reopen for all procedures and services by the end of May.
"Our focus is to operate a hospital in the setting of COVID-19, not operate a COVID-19 hospital," Gray said.
He added there are no plans to lift visitor restrictions, which currently allow patients to be accompanied by one adult who cannot stay overnight. Strict screening guidelines will remain in place for all patients and staff, including temperature checks and questions about travel. Gray is leading a care site task force and said these guidelines were developed for UT Medical Center, Covenant, Tennova and other area hospitals.
Under the county's safer at home order, hospitals suspended services listed in the Center for Medicaid Services Tier One which included routine primary care, preventative care and acupuncture. Gray said if there is a surge of COVID-19 cases in Knox County in the future, area hospitals can suspend these and higher tier services again.
County Furloughs Start Saturday
Today is the last paid day of work for more than 350 county employees as their eight-week furlough period begins. County Mayor Glenn Jacobs made this decision to save $1.7 million in the county budget. Furloughed employees will continue to receive health coverage, and are eligible for state unemployment funds and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. The largest employee cuts were to county libraries, which will lose 169 employees for the next two months.
The Knox County Health Department is furloughing 26 employees. County Health director Martha Buchanan said many of the health department's outreach processes stopped during the pandemic, giving some employees very little work to do. She added that if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases in the county, the department may bring back furloughed employees before the end of the eight weeks.
The Health Department is currently allocating about half of its more than 200-person staff to COVID-19 efforts. The rest of the staff is working on usual health department services including family planning and restaurant inspections.
TN to Set "Murder Hornet" Traps
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture will set up traps for so-called "Murder Hornets" in case any come to Tennessee. The Asian Giant Hornet was recently spotted in Washington state, but there have not been any sightings in Tennessee. This breed earned its nickname for attacking and killing other bees in late summertime.
Other types are hornets are common here. Experts from the University of Tennessee have said residents are far more likely to see a less dangerous European Hornet than the Asian Giant Hornet.
According to a statement from the TN Department of Agriculture, traps will be set up by July 1st, primarily in middle Tennessee. Invasive insects could travel to Tennessee in shipping containers, wood or soil.