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Gov. Bill Lee joined President Donald Trump at the White House Thursday for a briefing on protecting America’s senior citizens from the novel coronavirus.

“The elderly are the most hard-pressed in this setting,” Lee said during the White House COVID-19 briefing. “Especially those in longterm care facilities — and they need our help.”

The president vowed FEMA will send supplemental shipments of personal protection equipment to all 15,400 Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes in the U.S.

He also announced the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will make $81 million available through the federal coronavirus relief bill to increase nursing home inspections, and the formation of a Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes to comprehensively assess response, identify best practices and provide recommendations on how to go forward for residents and how to provide the best quality of life.

“We owe them a sacred and unbreakable obligation,” Trump said, “and we will fulfill that obligation with every resource and power that we have.”

While in Washington, Lee discussed his commitment to testing every resident and staff member in Tennessee’s 700 longterm care facilities.

“It’ll be a great undertaking, but it honors the value of these lives in those facilities — lives that have protected our country in the hardest of times, the greatest generation,” the governor said.

“It’s time for us to protect them.”

Lee joined Trump and the heads of federal agencies as the president signed a proclamation designating May as Older Americans Month.

In a later press conference with Tennessee media, Lee vowed the state will be very engaged in the testing process of longterm care facilities. 

“We’re doing testing this week,” he said. “We feel encouraged by the importance of this and what it’s going to mean for the most vulnerable. They need the most help, and we’re going to provide that.”

Lee was asked what would happen if facilities failed to test staff and residents.

“If they’re not able to do that, then we’ll implement that testing,” he said. “We feel confident that will happen.”

Lee praised hospitals and the private sector with the availability of COVID-19 testing throughout the state. During the Trump briefing, he proclaimed that 2% of Tennesseans had been tested in April, putting it on the benchmark the president had asked of states.

He later told Tennessee media representatives he believes the state is ahead of other states because its leaders saw early the affects the novel coronavirus was having in other countries and prepared accordingly. 

“The hospitals in our state have very strong relationships with their supply chains,” Lee said. “I wanted Tennessee to have a very strong testing program, and we’ve stayed focused on it from the beginning.”