As Tennessee coronavirus cases rise, governor issues guidance on gatherings, schools, travel; Capitol building closes to public

The Tennessee State Capitol is shown in Nashville.

NASHVILLE - As the number of coronavirus cases in Tennessee escalates, Gov. Bill Lee on Friday urged religious institutions, conference organizers and others to avoid large gatherings and consider alternatives by using livestreams, pre-recorded messages and other electronic means.

The governor also announced the Tennessee Capitol is now "closed to tours and visitors through March 31, 2020."

It comes a day after the governor invoked his emergency powers in an executive order that gives him wide authority to waive laws and implement measures to deal with the potentially COVID-19 infection that at last count earlier Friday had officially struck 26 Tennesseans, including an Episcopal priest in Hamilton County.

"COVID-19 is an evolving situation but we urge vulnerable populations, including those over age 60 and with chronic medical conditions, to limit participation in mass gatherings and to take extra precautions for personal well-being like increased hand-washing," Lee said in a statement.