NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Volunteer State is leading the nation in new daily COVID-19 infections. Doctors are warning if nothing drastic changes Tennessee hospitals will be pushed to the brink. Gov. Bill Lee recently met with doctors regarding the pandemic but is sticking with his current plan.
“We agree that we don’t agree on every issue, but that there are many things that we agree on and we’re going to try to work together,” Lee said.
This comes as pediatric COVID-19 cases have hit a record in Tennessee. Doctors say uniformed masking, testing, vaccination and distancing are just some keys to mitigating the disease.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, Lee has stood firmly against implementing any mask mandates.
“We do think that this strategy we’re taking is the one that is, the way forward, that best navigates the circumstances we’re in,” Lee said.
Children are taking the brunt of the rapid COVID-19 spread, accounting for 40% of the state’s new cases as Lee allows parents to opt their children out of school mask mandates.
“It’s just ridiculous to go out on a limb and try and influence others not to wear masks when it has been proven that the masks are effective and my heart goes out to all those children who have been infected simply because the parents don’t want them to wear a mask,” Nashville resident Fannie Carlisle said.
Former Republican Sen. Bill Frist is calling on Lee and other state leaders to do more, tweeting in part “without action, hundreds, even thousands, will needlessly die whose lives could have been saved.”
“We are bursting at the seams, our ICUs are completely full, our hospitals are more 50% filled with COVID patients. Limited resources are starting to impact our abilities to take care of folks,” Dr. Jason Martin said.
Martin, a Sumner County ICU doctor, who is running for governor of Tennessee as a Democrat, says Lee has a responsibility to do more to address COVID-19 in schools.
“The virus sees a human host it doesn’t see an adult, doesn’t see a child and so if we want to mitigate the spread of the virus we need to act together, that means being socially distanced, that means wearing masks when we are in close proximity to one another that means getting the vaccination as soon as you’re eligible to get it,” Martin said.
Lee has allowed for staffing flexibilities in hospitals by executive order. His administration has released millions of dollars to assist hospitals with the shortages. Lee is also encouraging Tennesseans to get vaccinated.