On Monday, Governor Bill Lee announced he would let his current order expire on April 30 and allow some businesses across the state to open May 1. However, Davidson, Shelby, Madison, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan counties—who operate their own health departments—will plan their own reopen strategies.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate passed a $484 billion relief package Tuesday that would replenish assistance for small businesses and provide funds for hospitals and virus testing. The U.S. House could pass the bill as soon as Thursday.

Below, we highlight COVID-19 updates and developments from our members and others in Tennessee. Visit our COVID-19 page for additional resources and supply needs.

Sen. Alexander Proposes ‘Shark Tank’ to Get More Tests
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Tennessee senior Senator Lamar Alexander argues there is no “safe path forward” without “tens of millions of diagnostic tests.” The op-ed is cowritten by Missouri Senator Roy Blunt; together, Sens. Alexander and Blunt preside over two Senate committees with oversight of public health programs and funding.

Their proposed solution is a “Shark Tank” style competition where the public and private sector work together to bring innovative technologies to market quickly. They write: “Specifically, we propose $1 billion to launch this shark tank for testing. Funding would be provided to the NIH to work with BARDA to underwrite any innovative idea with a chance to succeed. Importantly, industry experts and partners would be brought in to evaluate the potential technology, its effectiveness and its scalability.”

“The Road to a Vaccine” Series from Johnson & Johnson
Last week, Johnson & Johnson launched a live weekly original educational series called “The Road to a Vaccine.” The eight-episode original series, hosted by journalist and producer Lisa Ling, will uncover the incredible scientific efforts underway around the world to develop a vaccine at unparalleled speeds.

Each week Ling will be joined by expert Johnson & Johnson guests such as Chief Scientific Officer, Paul Stoffels, M.D., as well as leading scientists, public health experts and community health workers who are working tirelessly in the fight against coronavirus. From the lab to the frontlines, this series will bring you behind-the-scenes to learn about the work being done to help end this pandemic. Tune in live for new episodes each Tuesday at 12pm EDT.

Other important updates and resources:

  • Read about Meharry Medical College’s work to develop an antiviral drug and push for advanced screening in black communities.
  • The NIH announced it would launch a sweeping public-private partnership between federal researchers and 16 pharmaceutical companies, aimed at coordinating and accelerating the development of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
  • Knoxville-based EDP Biotech Corporation is one of 13 entities currently listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website as a commercial testing lab and manufacturer of COVID-19 serology (antibody) tests.
  • Pfizer and partner BioNTech will start a closely watched phase 2 test of their experimental mRNA vaccine for COVID-19.
  • Read this list of the ways Oak Ridge National Lab is mobilizing around COVID-19.