Tennessee doctors urge Gov. Lee to take immediate action to correct ‘failed COVID-19 response’

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Thousands of Tennessee physicians, first advocating for the stay-at-home order in March, delivered an urgent message to Gov. Bill Lee Monday in a conference call.

They’re urging the governor to take immediate action to correct, what some health professionals call ‘a failed COVID-19 response’, begging for science to drive decisions instead of politics.

“We were right about the stay at home order, it worked,” Dr. Aaron Milstone, Pulmonologist, Williamson Medical Center said, referencing an online petition launched March 20 by healthcare workers invited Tennesseans to help grow demand from citizens across the state for Gov. Lee to start listening to doctors. That petition grew to over 31,000 Tennesseans as of March 30. 

“It slowed the spread of COVID-19 and bought Tennessee valuable time to address this health crisis but instead of using that time to get things under control like other states, Tennessee squandered it​, rushing to reopen without a more cautious approach to slow the spread,” Dr. Milstone said. ​

In the last month, Tennessee has seen a 70 percent rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, a 56 precent rise in ICU admissions, while just 461 ICU beds remain statewide as of July 2. The data was shown Monday during the news briefing.

Dr. Milstone, who is leading the coalition of more than 60 critical care doctors addressed Gov. Lee’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, outlining immediate interventions that these doctors believe are needed to slow the virus’ spread.

“Their lungs have literally turned to stone,” Dr. Jigme Sethi, Chief of Pulmonology at Erlanger Hospital​ said. “For those who think it only effects those who have a comorbidity or the elderly, our own experience has been yes, we’ve had our fair share of the elderly and comorbidities, but we’ve lost a surprising number of young people.”

Dr. Sethi said for the first time in 35 years, he feels completely helpless in the ICU.

“I’ve been practicing for 35 years and I want to say and as a critical care physician I have not come across a disease like this.”

This is why doctors are urging Gov. Lee to take action. They’re asking for three things. ​

  • ​1. A statewide mask mandate be issued.
  • 2. Ensure the Tennessee Pledge protects the public by requiring employers to have safety measure in place to keep people six feet apart and wear masks, or they face consequences.
  • 3. Give mayors the power to protect public health in their cities.

​”Until that happens and everyone takes it seriously and knows that they can give it to someone, they can get it and it could lead to someone’s death, it’s not going to lead to any end roads,” said Dr. Murray Arons, Director, Critical Care at Skyline. “It’s this message that’s getting sent by many of our leaders that give people the idea it’s not that bad that we’re exaggerating it or have some other agenda…until the government makes it clear that they take it seriously I don’t think the average person [is] going to take it seriously.” ​

Medical professionals are hoping to lead Tennessee to a road of recovery, instead.

​ ​​​”We owe it to our fellow citizens to keep ourselves masked and separated otherwise we continue to see needless suffering,” Sethi said.

COVID-19 in Tennessee

(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST )

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