NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -- If you watch the numbers – you’ve seen a tremendous increase in new COVID-19 cases in Tennessee’s rural counties. In fact, 77 of Tennessee’s 95 counties now have had people test positive.

Governor Bill Lee said he’s concerned.

“I have been watching for the last several days. The speed that it’s moving to rural areas is concerning. That number has jumped dramatically in the last week,” Lee said.

The governor is also concerned is that rural economies will be hit especially hard.

As of March 30, Tennessee had 1,834 cases of COVID-19; 148 people are hospitalized. State figures show that 13 have died, but have said that thier numbers often lag behind.

There has been a “substantial increase” in cases, especially among the elderly, state officials said.

Earlier in the day, Metro officials addressed hospital capacity in preparation for a surge that they expect in mid-April.

“This is very much top of mind for us, as we look at models and so forth we think about raising capacity for many hundreds, if not more,” said Dr. Alex Jahangir.

A new study from Harvard Global Health Institute predicts that if 20% of the Nashville’s population is infected, within six to 12 months, Nashville’s health care system would exceed its current capacity.

In a worst-case scenario, the Harvard study said, if 60% of the population becomes infected over six months - the Nashville area would need more than three times the bed count and medical supplies it has on hand today. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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