Senate Democrats call for urgent, statewide action to control rapidly spreading coronavirus
After record-breaking weeks in hospitalizations, death, lawmakers urge Gov. Lee to adopt new interventions
NASHVILLE and MEMPHIS—With record numbers of Covid-19 cases, patients and deaths sweeping across Tennessee, Democratic senators said today urgent action is needed from Gov. Bill Lee to bring the virus under control.
On top of new record case numbers, the state’s 7-day average on leading indicators were all up significantly:
- daily deaths up 57 percent (14 deaths per day);
- hospitalizations up 55 percent (55 new patients per day);
- test positivity rate up 14 percent (9 percent); and
- new cases up 33 percent (1,874 new cases each day).
“The last two weeks should be a wake up call that Tennessee has a failed response to Covid-19,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said. “Tennesseans need Gov. Lee to do a complete reboot of his strategy to protect our citizens and we need him to do that now before it’s too late.”
The administration’s current approach, which relies almost solely on local leaders to set containment policy, is clearly not working, according to Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis).
“We do need statewide action in order for us to have a consistent approach and one that really does aggressively tackle this virus. We’re not able to continue with this patchwork policy or suggestions,” Sen. Akbari said. “There are experts who have really made it very clear: there are simple things that we can do that will make a huge difference.”
Democrats proposed four new policy changes for the Lee administration to implement:
- Rapid testing AND contact tracing: In April, the White House and the CDC said two programs were essential for reopening — wide scale, rapid testing AND contact tracing. Tennessee’s testing had been serviceable up until now when we’re seeing big delays, but contact tracing, Democrats say, has always been an afterthought to this administration.
Georgetown University now recommends more than 7,000 contact tracers are needed in Tennessee because case numbers have spiked so high.
- New mask regulation: Patchwork mask requirements are not working and neither is urging and recommending. Yet, the University of Washington predicts new infections and death would plummet — if 95% of people wore masks.
- Enforce the Tennessee Pledge: The Lee administration has produced guidelines for a safe reopening, but we are no where near a safe reopening. Democrats say the Lee administration should put some teeth behind these regulations.
- Assistance for those who cannot isolate safely at home: There are billions of federal dollars from the CARES Act at the governor’s disposal, but not nearly enough is being spent to contain the virus. When people cannot isolate safely at home due to a vulnerable family member, loved one or roommate, there should be state assistance to help them isolate.
This keeps healthy people working and sick people isolated.
Sen. Katrina Robinson, a nurse who is currently treating Covid-19 patients in Texas, said action is urgently needed from the Lee administration because the virus’ lagging indictors — hospitalizations and death — will soon spike as a result of record case numbers. Tennessee is not prepared statewide, Sen. Robinson said.
“The only way we can make advances in containing the virus’ spread and to prepare our healthcare facilities for what we have in hand right now is to make sure we contain the disease and make mask mandates statewide,” Sen. Robinson said. “One reason we don’t have widespread compliance is because people are confused… if we have different mayors giving different directions, we’re really confusing the process and that’s why we end up with the numbers that we have.”