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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee answers questions concerning the state's response to the coronavirus Monday, March 16, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Lee has asked all schools in Tennessee to close by the end of the week due to coronavirus spreading across the state. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday he has not been tested for the coronavirus, telling reporters that's because he hasn't displayed any symptoms associated with the potentially deadly infection.

"I have not personally tested," the Republican said when asked during his daily afternoon briefing on the state's responses to the COVID-19 virus outbreak that so far has resulted in 100 Tennesseans, including three Hamilton Countians, testing positive in what has become a global pandemic.

The governor revealed that "there have been a couple of folks in the governor's office who have been tested because they knew someone who knew someone, so we asked them to be tested."

None have tested positive, said Lee, who didn't provide a number but emphasized "we've told all our [people] if they have a spouse that's sick or if there's any kind of exposure in our office" to seek testing.

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, a dry cough and shortness of breath. From what is now known about the infections, some 80% of people only get mild symptoms. The most serious cases can result in pneumonia and in some cases severe illness that can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

Lee said Tennessee now has the ability to do 900 tests a day.

State Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and state epidemiologist John Dunn said Tennessee now has an adequate supply of tests in public and private facilities to meet the demands of persons referred by their physicians for COVID-19 testing.

"There has been a national backlog of testing, we have not experienced any of that in Tennessee. We have no backlog," Piercey said.

She noted that "with more tests, there are more positives and we've got more tests — that's a good thing, but we're also going to see more positives. ... We do expect more because it's growing in our community. We test every single sample that we have."

As the disease process grows along with infection rates, Piercey said, "we'll test more."

Private-sector testing is outpacing the state "by a multiple and we want that to happen," Piercey said. "And they're also increasing capacity and bringing more labs on line. So as they start testing, we'll start seeing more cases.

"That's why you're seeing a pretty big jump the last couple of days," Piercey added.

Meanwhile, Lee announced he has submitted a request to the U.S. Small Business Administration for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance.

"That will provide for access to funds that will be distributed as loans, small business loans, to the vast majority of businesses in Tennessee" to help make up for "any negatively impacted by COVID-19 and associated issues," Lee said.

Once the declaration is made, all Tennessee small businesses and nonprofit organizations that have suffered economic injury as a result of COVID-19 will be eligible to apply for disaster loan assistance of up to $2 million per applicant.

Lee also said he has been talking to various business groups, including the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association.

"We have a stable and secure food supply chain," the governor added, going on to note stores tell him they're hiring.

Association officials, the governor said, assured him they have a "very strong and secure food supply chain," and they also asked him to "encourage" Tennesseans "to not hoard, to not panic buy or respond to things that may cause you to panic."

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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