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TN preparing to send National Guard into hospitals to fight the COVID-19 surge

Gov. Lee signed a new executive order on Friday authorizing National Guard troops to serve as nurses or ambulance drivers.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee is preparing to send the National Guard into hospitals to fight the COVID-19 surge.

Governor Bill Lee signed a new executive order on Friday authorizing National Guard troops to serve as nurses, ambulance drivers and provide diagnostic testing for COVID-19.

The executive order has been signed due to the continuous increase in cases, deaths, and hospitalization related to COVID-19 across the state.

According to the executive order, "the Governor is authorized to suspend laws and rules if necessary to cope with an emergency, utilize all available and local resources needed to combat an emergency."

The new order also allows hospitals and nursing homes to increase their number of beds and temporarily establish a hospital, nursing home, home-based, and diagnostic services at any location if necessary to treat COVID-19 patients.

They are temporarily allowed to exceed certificate of need requirements.

And to help with the strain on health care workers if there are staffing shortages, Governor Lee said that certified medical assistants in hospitals could serve as nurses as long as they are supervised by a registered nurse.

Pre-license, graduate, or doctoral level audiology and speech-language pathology professionals can provide telehealth services under supervision. 

The executive order gives the Commissioner of Health the authority to allow persons who have completed or are actively enrolled in a program to obtain a master's degree or doctoral degree in the field of audiology or speech-language pathology to practice without a license and through the use of telemedicine services.

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