NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The COVID-19 surge is overwhelming Middle Tennessee hospitals and its exhausting resources and doctors.

Now, one more physician has joined the chorus of pleas to Governor Bill Lee, asking for a mask mandate. To date, similar pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

But fellow lawmakers, teachers and medical professionals have continuously made those same demands for months.

That hasn’t changed. 

What has changed, Tennessee is spiraling. COVID-19 is winning. Each day often brings record case counts, and record deaths.

“We just want to have a fighting chance to do it,” said Dr. James Parnell. “Over the last couple of weeks, we are having a hard time taking care of our patients.”

Parnell, an ER physician at Sumner Regional Medical Center, says he and his colleagues are drained. He says right now, one out of every 100 Tennesseans has COVID-19.

“Which means, if you go to the grocery store, there are probably 100 in there, and one of them probably has it,” says Parnell. “We’ve never seen a number quite like that.”

At this pace, that’s how you lose to a pandemic.

Tuesday morning, Parnell posted a twitter thread, tagging the governor. There were no available beds in his ER to transfer a pneumonia patient. In fact, the closest open bed was in another state.

“It’s like you’re running up against a wall. It may be the hardest part of the job really, in that you think about, I wonder what happened to that lady.”

That lady declined treatment, decided to go home. 

Despite the lack of past response from the governor’s office, Parnell is pleading for a mask mandate until people can be vaccinated. That way, he says, every Tennessean can together fight off the virus, before frontline workers are ultimately overwhelmed.

“That would be remarkable, it would help our doctors, nurses, patients, both COVID and non-COVID,” Parnell says. “We all need to be on the same page. I think Governor Lee has the power to make that happen.” 

Dr. Parnell says they’re in the middle of a COVID peak, the likes of which they’ve never seen. Their best chance is to slow the spread, and hospitals can’t wait for the vaccine to do that.