New graphs show how Tennessee has reported three times as many coronavirus cases as neighboring state Kentucky – and it may be because its governor took an extra week to issue stay at home orders.
In Kentucky there are over 1,100 cases of the virus and there have been 65 deaths so far.
In Tennessee, which sits just below Kentucky, the outbreak three times as large, with over 4,300 cases of COVID-19 and 79 deaths reported.
Despite their proximity, Kentucky’s early orders to lockdown, practice social distancing and stay at home may have saved the state from a more severe outbreak.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency on March 6, the same day the state reported its first confirmed case of the virus. On March 16 he further shut down all bars and restaurants for in-person dining.
Conversely, Tennessee reported its first COVID-19 case on March 5, but Governor Bill Lee did not issue a state of emergency until a week later on March 12 when the number of cases spiked to 18.
Dramatic graphs show how Tennessee’s coronavirus outbreak – with 4,300 cases and 79 deaths – is three times as bad as Kentucky’s – with 1,100 cases and 65 deaths – despite being neighboring states. Kentucky’s governor declared a state of emergency on March 6, the same day it reported its first case. Tennessee declared a state of emergency on March 12 when it had 18 COVID-19 cases. The delay in declaring the emergency state and ordering locals to stay at home may have contributed to the spike in cases in Tennessee
This graph by Stephanie Jolly shows COVID-19 cases in Kentucky and Tennessee per showing the number of cases per 1,000 residents according to test results and how many people have been tested in each state
A tale of two states: Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (left) has been praised for his early action to slow the spread of COVID-19 which may have contributed to its low number compared to neighboring state Tennessee. Lee issued a ‘safer at home’ order on March 30 instead of a ‘shelter in place’ order saying ‘it remains deeply important o me to protect personal liberties’
While both states are grappling with a shortage of tests and medical supplies, Tennessee is seeing over 3,200 more cases than Kentucky.
Kentucky resident and educator Stephanie Jolly, who is currently based in New York awaiting thyroid cancer surgery, has created graphs comparing the COVID-19 outbreaks in the two states to show the public how social distancing is flattening the curve.
‘This infographic has encouraged thousands to stay at home who otherwise wouldn’t have. I make a version with the actual counts because it is more easily understood by those seeking simple visuals — especially when sharing with older relatives,’ she wrote on Twitter sharing updated graphs on Sunday.
Her graph shows key dates – when the two governors declared states of emergency and stay at home orders.
And they’ve made a major impact – particularly among disgruntled Tennesseans.
‘I’ve had a lot of people from Tennessee telling me they wished they were taking the same steps as Kentucky,’ Jolly said to Buzzfeed.
In Kentucky, Beshear ordered all nonessential business closed on March 25 and a ‘healthy at home’ mandate, which is effectively a shelter in place order.
Data shows that Tennessee declared a state of emergency, encouraged social distancing, and placed stay at home orders all a week after Kentucky did. Kentucky declared a state of emergency on March 6 followings its first case. Tennessee did on March 12 when there were already 18 cases in the state. A woman demonstrates how air filters can be turned into face masks in Memphis, Tennessee on March 29
While both states are grappling with a shortage of tips and limited testing supplies, Tennessee is seeing over 3,200 more cases than Kentucky. Emergency medical personnel transport a patient into a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky
Pastor Chuck Salvo prays with congregants after the drive-in service at On Fire Christian Church on April 05 in Louisville, Kentucky
A view of the empty downtown area of Nashville, Tennessee during the COVID-19 pandemic pictured on March 31
Beshear said the key difference in phrasing was to not stress out his constituents.
‘[Shelter in place] says “get in our house and board it up until we call you.” That’s not the way that we will address this coronavirus. Our way is healthy at home – that any type of steps, initiatives, restrictions that we put into place will always allow you to be healthy at home,’ he explained at the time.
Lee followed suit on March 30 by closing all nonessential businesses and issuing a ‘safer at home’ order instead of a mandated shelter in place order, ‘because it remains deeply important to me to protect personal liberties,’ he said at the time.
Communication also played a role in the trajectory of the virus.
Beshear started holding daily 5pm briefings on March 7 to keep the public updated on the advance of the coronavirus. Lee lagged behind starting daily public briefings on March 23.
Tennessee has a population of 6.8million compared to Kentucky’s 4.5million – however even correcting for that population difference, Tennessee has more than double the number of cases per resident.
Nationwide there are over 422,000 cases of the virus and 14,000 deaths
Gov. Beshear has turned into an adored celebrity much like New York Gov. Andrew Como has, for his 5pm daily updates on the virus and early action.
Beshear’s actions have also won him popularity among Kentucky health workers as hospitals were given extra time to prepare for the influx of patients.
Kentucky’s projected date of peak deaths is estimated for April 24 with 33 deaths. Tennessee’s predicted peak date is April 18 with 25 deaths, according to Bloomberg data.
This projection shows that Kentucky bought itself time with its early action.
‘I do wish our governor had acted faster, and had done more,’ Vanderbilt University School of Medicine infectious disease expert William Schaffner said on the state’s outbreak.
However, experts warn that the data is variable and Tennessee’s numbers could be greater because the state may have actually had a much earlier outbreak of the illness than reported.
Now the states are bracing for continued COVID-19 cases.
In Nashville, Tennessee, where over 1,000 cases were reported Monday, part of Vanderbilt University’s parking garage is being transformed into a place for new hospital beds.