- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus, state Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey announced in a Thursday morning news conference.

The patient is an adult male living in Williamson County who recently traveled out of state. The patient is isolated at home with mild symptoms and his household contacts are being evaluated, Piercy said.

Tennessee Medical Epidemiologist Mary-Margaret Fill, who also spoke at the news conference, said the patient began feeling ill shortly after returning from out-of-state travel and had very limited activity outside his home. He took a nonstop, round-trip flight from Nashville to Boston and did not show symptoms during the trip, state health officials said.

Later on Thursday, a private school in Williamson County said the patient was a parent of one of their students.

“The current student of that family has no symptoms and will be kept out of school for precautionary reasons under the supervision of public health,” said Will Kesler with Battle Ground Academy. “Due to the incubation period of the virus, there is no evidence that the student was infectious at school.”

The school said it would also be closed on Friday out of “an abundance of caution,” though the state did not think that was necessary.

The Health Department is compiling a list of other people who may have been in contact with him and reaching out to them for testing. Piercey said the threat to the general public in Tennessee from COVID-19 is low. She encouraged people to take common sense precautions like hand washing.

The state health department says it has tested eight people for the virus so far and has the ability to test 85 more people at this time. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing more testing to states if needed, state officials said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee praised the steps the state has taken to prepare for the virus.

“Tennessee was one of the first five states to begin testing,” he said. “I’m confident in the measures we are taking to prevent the spread of infection.”

Referring to the tornadoes that tore through the state early Tuesday morning, killing 24 people, Lee said, “It’s been a difficult week for our state. Tens of thousands of people are suffering.” But he said advance emergency preparation has helped the state in that case, just as it is helping with the COVID-19 response.

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