NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Many question if the COVID-19 pandemic has turned political — and, one local scientist answers ‘yes.’

Dr. James Hildreth, President of Meharry Medical College, who also sits on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, says the pandemic’s movement has been marred.

He believes if politicians would have stayed out of the conversation, then we would be further along in the fight.

“We’ve allowed politics to supply science, and that’s not a good thing when you’re dealing with a public health crisis caused by a virus that is agnostic to your race, to your gender, to your political affiliation, to your nationality,” he points out. “It doesn’t really care.”

Dr. Hildreth says from the beginning there were scientists, who have dedicated their lives to public health, giving good advice and information.

Tracking COVID in Tennessee
📊 COVID-19 cases among TN school-age children
📊 Tennessee’s Current COVID-19 hospitalizations
📊 New COVID-19 cases and deaths reported by month

“It just could not be heard over the loudness of the politics and polarization, and that’s unfortunate.”

As we stretch into the 18th month of monitoring COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, Dr. Hildreth has this suggestion, “The scientists are willing to make a deal with the politicians. We’ll leave the politics to you, if you leave the science to us. And if that could happen, I think we could move this thing along.”

It’s the extreme division that frustrates Dr. Hildreth the most, when 20 years ago our country stood firmly united following the attacks of September 11th.

“No matter who you were, where you were, we all came together,” he says. “We have another common enemy that has killed 100s of times more people. In fact, 650,000 plus people have died, and yet, we’re still fighting each other.”

It has gotten to the point where mandates have been put into place, which Dr. Hildreth’s wishes weren’t necessary.

“The thing that makes me really, really sad is being aware of the fact that there are individuals who believe that their personal freedoms entitle them to endanger the lives of others.”

He continues, “I don’t think it should have come to mandates, but in order to protect our children, who are not yet able to be vaccinated, I do think mandates are required.”

He wishes Americans would have listened to the science from the start instead of politicizing a pandemic.

“We look for things that will divide us as opposed to looking for things that united us.” Dr. Hildreth says, “When you get vaccinated, it’s both a selfish thing to do because you protect yourself, but it’s also a selfless thing that you do because you’re actually protecting the people around you. “

Currently, fewer than half of Tennesseans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. News 2 takes you inside the debate with ‘Moving the Needlespecial reports. Keep up with our continuing coverage on