Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has declared his state as “ground zero” for the national COVID-19 surge after data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed it as having the highest rate of new infections of any state over this past week.
For each day in the week up to Dec. 23, the records show 129.9 new cases of COVID-19 for every 100,000 Tennessee residents, putting it above California, which has 111.2 daily infections per 100,000 people, reports Business Insider.
“We are in the darkest part of this pandemic in Tennessee. Our cases are surging, it’s a very serious situation,” the Republican governor said in a video posted on Twitter Tuesday.
In an executive order, Lee declared a continuing state of emergency and urged residents to work from home if possible, limit social gathering, wear face coverings, and spend the holidays with people from their own households.
Tennessee has recorded more than a half million cases of COVID-19 as of Dec. 22, or about 3% of all infections in the country, according to the state government. Of those, there have been 6,269 fatalities.
Tennessee’s frontline healthcare workers started getting vaccinations on Dec. 17. Lee’s wife Maria tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, and he is isolating himself and has no symptoms.
The state was one of the first to reopen in the early days of the pandemic, allowing the return of indoor dining and non-essential retail businesses in late April.