New research from Vanderbilt University predicts the outbreak will plateau in Tennessee at the current rate of 300 hospitalizations. Interestingly, Tennessee looks to be an outlier state with “a dramatically lower rate of hospitalization and death than the national average.” For the latest tracking of COVID-19 in Tennessee, click here.

Tennessee made national news this week following reports that private health information was being shared with police at the direction of Governor Bill Lee. After initial resistance, the Tennessee Department of Health is providing 68 law enforcement agencies a daily list of names and addresses of individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus. This practice, which raises serious privacy issues, has garnered rare bipartisan agreement from both Republicans and Democrats who believe it should be suspended immediately.

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.

Federal State-of-Play
Coronavirus has hit the West Wing. The Senate HELP Committee held a (partly) virtual hearing with leading scientists warning we “run the risk of having a resurgence” if we reopen the economy too quickly. And—on the bright side—oral arguments of the Supreme Court are now available to the public.

Congress will begin to formulate a new relief package as the country continues to grapple with the economic effects of the virus. Since the CARES Act first passed in late March, Congress also passed an interim bill that added more funding to the popular Paycheck Protection Program as well as additional funding for health care providers. The next package is expected to be more comprehensive, though exactly what will be included in the final bill remains to be seen.

The House took the first step when it introduced a $3 trillion measure on Tuesday. The central push in the House package is providing aid for states and municipalities who are bearing the brunt of costs from testing and treatment. Conversely, in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is interested in providing more support for businesses, including a priority on liability and other protections from lawsuits. Given the partisan divide, analysts expect this package could take weeks to pass.

University of Memphis Leads with Innovation, Research
Similar to other higher learning institutions we have featured in this newsletter, the University of Memphis has responded to the pandemic with a focus on research, collaboration and innovation. On May 15, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Office of Research, in collaboration with the University of Memphis, will announce a new CORNET RFA focused on SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Research. To be considered for a UTHSC/UofM SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Research CORNET Award, each research team must include, at a minimum, one faculty member from each participating campus (UTHSC and UofM). 

If you are interested in applying for the CORNET, please email Cody Behles at [email protected] for details on the application process and to obtain the necessary documents and forms.

In addition to this research opportunity, here are other ways the University of Memphis is innovating:

  • The university has endorsed and committed to the COVID-19 Licensing Guidelines recently released by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM). These guidelines are meant to reduce barriers so researchers and their respective institutions can deliver innovations, including technologies, treatments and other solutions, in a timely manner for immediate impact.
  • Dr. Linda Jarmulowicz, dean of the University of Memphis’ School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, recently led efforts to assist local hospitals treating ventilated patients impacted by the coronavirus by providing low-tech communication boards.
  • The FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis will host virtual events throughout the summer focused on COVID-19 research and innovations; topics include “Telehealth Webinar series,” “5 Questions featuring UofM Researchers” and more.
Other important updates and resources:
  • Late last week, HHS announced a shipment of donated remdesivir for hospitalized patients with COVID-19. The donation, made by Gilead Sciences, will be allocated to the hardest hit parts of the country.
  • As part of the CARES Act, the FDA requires medical device manufacturers to report disruptions to the supply chain.
  • This week, BIO rolled out its new COVID-19 Therapeutic Development Tracker.
  • A Bloomberg report notes that increased collaboration on COVID-19 treatment and therapies may create future patent issues.
  • ICYMI: Watch this listening session with Senator Lamar Alexander hosted by the Nashville Health Care Council.
  • Check out this “Founder Feature” from CO.LAB on how TesBros pivoted to make PPE.