NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced state officials will begin releasing county-specific information on the coronavirus' impacts, including the number of deaths.
"We will be releasing negative results by counties, the projected number of those who recover and give a greater picture of who is still carrying the virus and deaths identified by county," Lee told reporters during a teleconference call.
He said he hopes to have the figures "up and running by the week."
The move came amid questions and pressure from open government advocates and news organizations seeking to provide information to the public along with a broader context of what is happening across Tennessee.
Latest statewide figures released Tuesday afternoon show 2,239 people have tested positive for coronavirus infections and 23 have died in the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's the second time Lee has shifted course to provide greater transparency. The state at one point refused to identify the number of infections in individual counties, citing federal health care privacy requirements even as a number of local governments such as Hamilton County released them.
The stated concern in both instances was federal guidlines and how release of the information would play out in smaller counties. Lee told reporters Monday he had directed his staff to see how they could accomplish that.
"The more Tennesseans know that's pertinent and that's helpful the more we're going to give it to them," said Lee, adding the administration pursued several legal paths in order to work things out. "The fact is we pushed because we wanted to provide the transparency."
State Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said part of the issue is that some information Tennessee receives comes from private entities.
"A lot of our data is external," Piercey said. "We're a little bit at their mercy."
Earlier Tuesday, Dr. David Aronoff, director of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told reporters that more granular data on where deaths happen could be helpful."
Asked why, Aronoff said it "helps us get a better idea on health resource utlization, ICU beds that can be used and provides information on how to deploy and information to the community on preventing" further spread of the virus.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.
Residents urge Cloudland Canyon State Park to close as Dade County gets its first confirmed COVID-19 case