Gov. Lee warns Tennessee bracing for 'surge' of COVID-19 patients to hit in 3 1/2 weeks

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State Address, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, in Nashville. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday afternoon the state is preparing for a "surge" of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and seeking to bring "thousands" of additional hospital beds online as well as staffing and supplies to prepare for it in the next 3 1/2 weeks.

Lee said during his daily briefing the state's worst-case scenario shows an estimated 7,000 more beds will be needed in the next 3 1/2 weeks as COVID-19 spreads across the state. He said current computer modeling shows peak numbers around April 19 or April 20.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is scouting local convention centers, hotels and college campuses, while hospitals are bringing on unused bed space.

Tennessee is also putting out urgent calls to health care workers who have been furloughed or displaced that they are needed and will shortly have a website for them to contact the state, Lee said.