This story was updated Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, at 7:47 p.m. with more information.
NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday he is taking "very seriously" his and first lady Maria Lee's exposure to the coronavirus and both are now in self-imposed quarantine after a member of his security detail tested positive earlier in the day for COVID-19.
Emphasizing he tested negative after being administered a test later Wednesday morning, Lee told reporters in an afternoon video teleconference that he feels fine. But he said he and Maria Lee are self-quarantining, probably for the next 14 days, while getting tested "on a regular basis over the next few days."
Maria Lee, who had traveled earlier Wednesday to a school in Manchester with Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, was scheduled to have her first test later Wednesday afternoon.
"Maria and I are feeling fine," Lee said. "We've received a lot of messages from a lot of folks. We are not sick and hope that we don't become that way. But we will certainly keep you posted along the way."
Lee added that "out of an abundance of caution, we are following protocol, taking this very seriously. And I'll be working from home as will Maria. I took a test and was negative. Maria is home now and she'll be taking a test and then we'll be quarantined from there."
Because it sometimes takes several days for the virus to be detected by testing, Lee said he will follow advice from his own Department of Health as to additional testing.
The governor's security detail varies in size depending where he's going and what he is doing. On Tuesday, Lee traveled to Oak Ridge, joining U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, an Ooltewah Republican. They were there to celebrate the conclusion of a decadeslong effort to clean up the Department of Energy's K-12 gaseous diffusion facility.
Lee and other officials declared the 2,200-acre site cleaned up and ready for industrial reuse.
Lee later traveled Tuesday to Knoxville where he attended a political event hosted by state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, offering free barbecue to Knoxvillians. The decades-old event started by her late father, a congressman, this year became a drive-through affair. Attendees included Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker from Oak Ridge.
The governor told reporters he expects that even should he test positive, "I would continue to operate and work even with symptoms. I would not anticipate not being able to work."
The first lady and Commissioner Schwinn on Wednesday morning toured Westwood Elementary School in Manchester. Earlier this week, Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman died from COVID-19. Lee said he didn't learn of the security staffer's positive test until after his wife departed.
As for his wife and her contacts, including Schwinn, Lee said he doesn't think Maria Lee will test positive "because her exposure to that particular detail was yesterday afternoon. So Penny Schwinn would be a contact of a contact of a contact. But we'll confirm all that this afternoon when she has her test and we'll move on from there."
Tennessee, meanwhile, is experiencing a new uptick in coronavirus infections, especially in rural counties, state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey told reporters during the teleconference with Lee. And while the initial wave of infections impacted Tennesseans in their 20s and 30s, more middle-aged Tennesseans are now being impacted with the median age now 43.
"Our antennae are up, and we are watching, but we are not to a point where we are panicked by any stretch of the imagination," Piercey said.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.
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