MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There are renewed calls to enact a statewide mask mandate after a group of doctors from all corners of the state are calling not on the state’s governor to enact a mandate, but the state legislature. It comes as hospitals and healthcare workers continue to battle COVID-19 on the frontlines.
Tennessee reported 3,478 new cases of coronavirus and 146 more people dying after contracting the virus, according to the state health department.
“Their constituents voted them into office and it’s time they step up,” said Dr. Stacey Vallejo, speaking on behalf of ForwardTN. Vallejo specializes in pulmonary critical care at Saint Thomas West Hospital in Nashville.
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The group last delivered a message to Gov. Bill Lee over the summer, calling on him to implement a statewide mask mandate.
The most recent CDC data shows Tennessee is ranked seventh highest in the amount of daily COVID-19 cases, on average, per 100,000 people in the last seven days, putting it ahead of states with much larger populations, like New York and Texas.
Gov. Lee has resisted previous calls for a statewide mask mandate. Dr. Vallejo said the governor’s approach is not working.
“It would be really beneficial to have a mask mandate throughout the state,” Dr. Vallejo said.
A Vanderbilt University study released in Nov. found counties without mask mandates had higher deaths than those that did have mask mandates.
“Everyone wearing a mask will harm no one, but it will help a lot of people,” said state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis.
Parkinson said he was joining the group of doctors in their call to enact legislation on a statewide mask mandate.
Parkinson said the legislation should “have to be renewed a year later by the legislature” so that it could be revisited.
A spokesman for Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossvile, said Sexton supports the governor’s decisions around mask mandates.
A spokesman for Senate Speaker Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, did not respond to a request for comment.
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