NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A West Tennessee legislator has sent a letter to Gov. Bill Lee requesting that the Tennessee economy be reopened now instead of waiting until May.
Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, said he conducted a poll of 9,000 of his constituents in his district and 55% were in favor of lifting restrictions imposed by Executive Order No. 27, which extended the state's Safe at Home guidelines.
"Every day that goes by with government imposed restrictions we are losing millions in economic output, small businesses are facing greater certainty of permanently closing due to crippling economic hardship and workers' fears are growing as to how they are going to bring in money to support their families and cover their bills," Griffey wrote in the letter to Lee.
Griffey said the number is growing with the Paycheck Protection Program running out of money with many businesses being left out and people being unable to access the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's website to file unemployment claims because it lacks the capacity to handle the increasing number of claims being submitted.
"Not only am I pleading with you to lift restrictions now due to the destruction they are having on our economy and businesses and individuals left unemployed not to mention the negative impact it is having on the mental health of our citizens with an increased rate of suicide (one week resulting in more deaths to suicide than to COVID-19), but also inasmuch as the statistics and medical research don't support a continued shut-down of businesses and a stay-at-home order," Griffey wrote.
Griffey cited the U.S. has a far lower COVID-19 death rate per million by population that nearly all the other major industrial nations.
"Moreover, the number of actual deaths in the U.S. resulting from COVID-19 is beliefed to be inflated inasmuch as Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force confirmed that in the U.S., with a positive test, deaths by any cause occuring during the pandemic are reported as a Coronavirus fatality," Griffey wrote in the letter. "There is an important distinction between dying 'with' COVID-19 and dying 'from' COVID-19 for which there is no accounting in the reported numbers."
Griffey said in the letter that alleged "expert" epidemiologists have engaged in speculative forecasting that has been all over the place, varying from predictions of as many as $2.5 million anticipated deaths to predictions as low as tens of thousands nationally.
"No model has appeared to be accurate," Griffey wrote in the letter. "Our own federal government has significantly llowered its estimate and is now estimating that the COVID-19 will result in approximately 60,000 deaths nationally; however, this number needs to be put into perspective. The 2018-2019 flu season resulted in 55,672 deaths from flu and pneumonia, but the government did not shut down our economy over the flu.
"Closure of our state's economy has been costly and the enormity of the damage grows exponentially by the day to the extent the economy remains shut down. Small businesses are desperate to reopen."
Griffy said a study of 5,800 small businesses by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that 43% of small businesses are closed and have laid off 40% of their workers. He also said the median (small) business has more than $10,000 in monthly expenses and less than one month of cash on hand.
"I believe the time to reopen our state is now, not a week from now or next month, especially for rural counties with a very limited number of COVID-19 cases," Griffey wrote in his letter to the governor. "For example, Henry County has two COVID-19 patients in the hospital with only one of those on a ventilator. Notably, the vast majority of small businesses are closed in my district (Benton, Henry and Stewart counties) as a result of your Executive Orders but the 'big box' stores such as Walmart, Lowes, and the like, remain open with most of the county population visiting these stores. It is sad to see these corporate giants raking in money while small business is being destroyed under crippling restrictions."
Griffey also asked in the letter for Lee to repeal Executive Orders 18 and 25, allowing the resumption of all surgical and dental procedures, both elective as well as emergent.