NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - With COVID-19 cases spiking throughout the state, some Tennessee lawmakers are calling for a different approach.
Three senate Democrats held video press conference Tuesday morning to call for Governor Bill Lee to implement new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Tennessee.
The calls follow 15,473 cases with 15,456 confirmed of COVID-19 in Davidson County. This was an increase of 771 total cases in the past 24 hours.
There have been two new confirmed deaths reported. A total of 140 people have died after a confirmed case of COVID-19.
“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 senators, two from Memphis and one from Nashville, say rising hospitalizations and death rates show it’s time for the governor to change his approach.
“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. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) 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.”
The Democrats proposed the following four changes:
- 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.
- 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.
Governor Lee recently signed an executive order which gave mayors in 89 counties the authority to issue mask mandates, with some putting those in place as a result.
Right now in Tennessee anyone who wants a COVID-19 test can get one regardless of their symptoms.
“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. Katrina 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.”?