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Doctors ask every Tennessee mayor to order shelter-in-place

If Governor won't do it, mayors can, letter argues
New York reports first coronavirus-related death in state
Posted at 4:08 PM, Mar 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-29 07:16:41-04

(WTVF) — With Gov. Bill Lee balking at putting down a statewide order to shelter-in place, Tennessee's doctors are taking a different approach.

Now, the Tennessee Medical Association is pushing local and county mayors to do what the governor won't do.

In a letter, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, the state medical association says, "In the absence of a statewide order at this point, your local orders can help protect our population and save lives."

For mayors who don't have such authority, TMA urged them to ask Lee to give it to them.

"Even the smallest counties in Tennessee will likely see significant numbers in the near future because each infected person is currently estimated to be infecting more than three other people in Tennessee," the TMA letter warns.

It goes on, "While we realize the detrimental effects Stay-at-Home orders will have on your local communities, without action now COVID-19 threatens to disrupt our businesses and lives much longer and in more profound ways if allowed to spread at this pace."

Dr. Kevin Smith, the incoming TMA president, said the organization felt the need to weigh in because it involves a medical issue.

"As physicians, we felt like it was important for us to give our advice to the mayors so that they can consider protecting their constituents," Smith explained.

Right now, with Sumner County dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, Smith said the message has taken on new urgency.

"We've been advocating this for the past week," he added, "but I think what's happening in Sumner County clearly underlines that this is not going to be just a big-city problem in Tennessee."

The letter suggests that, if some mayors don't have the authority to issue such orders, they should ask the governor to give it to them, warning: "we must act to do what we can to slow this virus now to prevent excessive deaths and disability."