The Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) sent a letter to every municipal and county mayor in the state Friday asking them to request authority from Gov. Bill Lee to issue shelter-in-place orders for their communities.
Lee has thus far declined to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order, which prompted more than 2,000 health care workers to sign a petition asking him to change course, The Tennessee Star reported. As of Sunday, 26 states had issued stay-at-home orders, including the neighboring states of North Carolina and Kentucky.
“In order to attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee, the Tennessee Medical Association would recommend each of you to request authority from the Governor to allow you to issue a stay-at-home or similar order for your jurisdiction, like those now in place in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Franklin,” states the letter.
Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder said on Twitter that several mayors across the state have been asking Lee for authority to issue shelter-in-place orders, but currently don’t have the power to do so under various state and local laws.
“Only Gov. Lee can issue that order, and I am hopeful he does before it’s too late,” he added.
Also Breaking: Several mayors across #TN have been asking for this for over a week, but don’t have the power under various state/local laws. Only, @GovBillLee can issue the order, & I am hopeful he does before it’s too late. Grateful for groups like @tnmed for being speaking out. https://t.co/HRDlV6SzND
— Chaz Molder (@chazmolder) March 28, 2020
The TMA said in its letter that the “only effective mechanism” for slowing the spread of the coronavirus “is increased social distancing.”
“Ideally, we would recommend that these orders close all non-essential businesses, limit all non-essential activities and gatherings of any size, and impose a 14-day self-quarantine on anyone entering our state from another state or country with few exceptions, such as our trucking and delivery systems,” states the letter. “In the absence of a statewide order at this point, your local orders can help protect our population and save lives.”
The letter says that Tennessee’s number of total positive cases continues to “rise at an alarming pace,” noting that an average of 120 new cases were reported each day over a six-day period. The TMA said the “doubling time for cases is just under four days,” which means that in less than four days Tennessee will have twice as many cases as it does today.
Additionally, the TMA predicts that “even the smallest counties” in Tennessee will see significant increases in the near future “because each infected person is currently estimated to be infecting more than three other people in Tennessee.”
“Stay-at-home orders are our best chance to buy time, and implementation now with fewer cases rather than later with overwhelming cases seems most prudent,” the letter concludes. “We need you to trust the advice of our best infectious disease and epidemiological physicians to guide us through this difficult time and do what we can now to protect our critical care and hospital physicians who will be caring for seriously ill patients in the days to come.”
As of Sunday, Tennessee had 1,537 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 133 hospitalizations, and seven deaths.
Read the letter:
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Medical Staff of the Capital” by the Tennessee Medical Association.