Gov. Bill Lee visits COVID-19 testing site, alternate care facility in Memphis

Gov. Bill Lee visits Memphis coronavirus testing site, alternate care facility

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited Memphis Saturday and made two stops at important sites in the ongoing battle against COVID-19.

The governor’s visit comes as some parts of the state prepare to reopen business at the end of next week.

Lee began his visit to Memphis Saturday at a pop-up drive through COVID-19 testing location in Frayser.

Along with thanking health care workers administering the test, the governor was also thankful for the long line of people who came to get tested.“That requires people to be willing to come out and get tested," said Lee. "And out in Frayser there were a lot of folks coming out to get tested, I was really happy about that. I told the folks in the car, thank you for coming out. Tell your friends and neighbors to come out as well.”

Christ Community Health Services offered spiritual mental health advisors along with tests for COVID-19 to help people who might be afraid and worried about dealing with the virus.

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Shantelle Leatherwood, CEO Christ Community Health Services says that’s not all they wanted to provide.

“And give individuals just a feeling of hope when they come through our lines," she said.

An alternate cafe facility currently under construction on Union Avenue was the governor’s second stop.

He toured the furious work underway to prepare the building to host 400 hospital beds for recovering COVID-19 patients who can leave the hospital but still require oxygen.

“One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Colonial Miller and his team with the Army Corps of Engineers have essentially committed to do a year or more of work in 28 days," said Richard Walker, chairman of Emergency Medicine.

Work is scheduled to finish in mid-May.

Officials hope local hospitals do not become overcrowded and the building never has to host patients.

“Candidly we hope this building is never ever used,” said Scott Strome, executive dean of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Lee says data showing a downward trend of COVID-19 patients for 18 consecutive days and knowing that 400,000 Tennesseans lost their job this month, factored into the decision to allow 89 Tennessee Counties to open next Saturday.

Lee was asked if he would feel comfortable visiting reopened businesses on day 1.

“I will, yes I would I certainly would," said Lee. "One of the things that I want to do is make certain that these businesses are operating safely and I will be out and about to witness that.”

Officials stress, the fight isn’t over, and social distancing is still critical to slow the spread of the virus.

“Tennesseans are going to have to stay committed to this concept of social distancing," said Lee. "We’ve only just begun.”

“As things open up, everybody not saying to themselves oh it’s over," said Walker. "Because it isn’t over. But instead saying we can win.”

Officials say they have plans to keep this alternate care facility ready for COVID-19 patients for up to two years if needed.

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