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Tennessee Medical Association wanted slower reopening of state

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Posted at 5:26 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-29 23:27:59-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee suggested Friday that his plan to reopen Tennessee's economy was worked out with help from the largest medical association in the state.

It turns out, the truth is a bit more complicated.

The Tennessee Medical Association is a powerful group that represents the state's doctors - and Lee dropped the group's name as he unveiled his plan for a phased reopening during a morning briefing.

"We've been working with the Tennessee Medical Association," he told reporters.

In fact, a TMA report, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, shows the medical association was actually pushing a go-slow approach instead of the governor's 85-county plan. His plan includes all but the six most populous counties that have their own health departments.

"While a statewide or regional approach might seem more attractive, this would not allow for hot spots that will certainly arise," said the TMA report to the governor.

"Opening and closing at a county level will allow more flexibility going forward and should limit spread more effectively."

Asked by NewsChannel 5 about the TMA stance, Lee dismissed the medical association's recommendations.

"We believe that the efforts and the phased-in strategy, the geographic appropriate that we're taking is the one that's right," the governor said.

Lee's plan focuses on all but the six most populous counties, but the medical association noted that even some rural counties are still struggling - and they argued that should be part of the calculation.

"We believe this measured, staged approach at gradually opening the State of Tennessee by counties will be more likely to prevent significant increases in COVID-19 cases which would result in more serious closures as we have experienced the past six weeks," TMA said.

The governor's concern? Messaging.

"So that we don't have a confusion across the state about different plans in different areas. That's really been our strategy."

Meanwhile, a new report from researchers at Vanderbilt's School of Medicine says the transmission rate of the virus right now is at a manageable level.

But it warns that success remains "fragile" and could quickly go south if social distancing is not maintained.