NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A coalition of medical and education groups are calling on Gov. Bill Lee to issue a statewide mandate requiring Tennesseans to wear face masks when out in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.
During a Wednesday news conference, doctors shared letters written by groups that represent some 30,000 members across the state.
"Not only is ICU capacity limited, but some communities are experiencing a significant strain on their hospital capacities," wrote Dr. Sudave Mendiratta, president of the Tennessee College of Emergency Physicians.
"We must slow the spread of COVID-19 to ensure that the economy of Tennessee can resume the tremendous growth that we have experienced over the past few years."
Dr. Andrew Franklin, president of the Tennessee Society of Anesthesiologists, argued that "the universal wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing are the only practical ways to slow the progress of the novel coronavirus short of shutting down the economy of Tennessee again."
Dr. Jerry Wilson, president of the Tennessee Academy of Family Physicians, speculated that most of his members had once opposed any government mandate.
"However, we feel this is one of the situations where a mandate may be necessary to achieve the compliance required to maximize the protection of face coverings," Wilson added in his letter to the governor.
"I certainly hope that a mandate of this nature, if applied, will be temporary and unnecessary very soon."
Micah Cost, executive director of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association argued that a mask mandate will help Tennesseans get on with other areas of their lives.
"It is especially important to ensure that frontline workers, including pharmacists and pharmacy team members, who are putting themselves at risk every day, are afforded the greatest protection possible so that the health care workforce remains stable and strong," Cost continued.
Lee has given county mayors the authority to implement mask orders, expressing reluctance to make that kind of decision for individual communities.
The Tennessee Medical Association has written county mayors, urging them to use that authority.
"As cases and hospitalizations rise, increases in deaths may ensure over the next few weeks," the TMA wrote on July 8th.
"Wearing masks is one way we can protect others, especially our vulnerable populations, from catching this potentially deadly virus."
Also joining in the case for a statewide mask mandate: the Metro Nashville Education Association, the Rutherford Education Association and the Hamilton County Education Association.