Doctors fight back against governor’s COVID policies – Tennessee Lookout

Doctors across the state, including a member of Governor Bill Lee’s COVID-19 advisory committee, challenge his COVID-19 policies and applaud three court rulings to overturn his executive order allowing parents to step down from school mask warrants .

Dr. Erica Kaye, pediatrician, oncologist and palliative care physician at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, wrote a letter to Governor Lee in August and signed by thousands of medical professionals encouraging him to back down. She called the decisions of three federal judges to block Lee’s executive orders in Shelby, Knox and Williamson counties as “critical steps in the right direction.”

“As pediatricians and healthcare professionals, our main mission is to save children’s lives,” Kaye said. “Gov. Bill Lee has the power and responsibility to protect the lives of Tennessee residents, especially vulnerable young children who cannot yet be immunized. Since he refused to do so, we are grateful that the courts have heard the concerns of families whose children are most at risk and have protected all children in those school districts. Every child, teacher and employee deserves the freedom to be safe in school, without exception. “

U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer ruled Friday that Knox County schools must implement a mask warrant to protect children at health risk. U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw ruled the same day that Williamson County and Franklin Special County school districts would be able to enforce mask warrants without exception.

The rulings came following a decision by U.S. District Judge Sheryl Lipman to block Lee’s mask removal order and issue a preliminary injunction in Shelby County.

Lee declined to comment on the ongoing litigation last week and also said he was unsure whether he would renew the executive order when it expires on October 5.

Dr. Lisa Piercey, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, with Governor Bill Lee. (Photo: John Partipilo)

The majority of school districts in Tennessee opened in early August without universal mask rules, with the exception of schools in Shelby County, Metro Nashville public schools and a few rural school systems. In the past two weeks, the state has reported nearly 18,000 pediatric cases of COVID-19, and about 33% of cases statewide are in children.

Governor Lee said on Fox News this summer that children do not get COVID-19. He then changed that statement to say that the disease does not have the same effect on children as it does on older and healthier adults.

At least 14 public school employees, including teachers, have died from COVID-19 since the start of the school year, the Tennessee Lookout previously reported. More than 14,000 people have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Dr Sarah Cross, director of infectious diseases at Regional One Health in Memphis and University of Tennessee physician in health sciences, had previously criticized the governor’s order allowing parents to opt out of school district mask mandates. Now she is targeting her policy of prioritizing monoclonal antibodies for people who are unvaccinated, or those who may be sickest from COVID-19 and the Delta variant.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Cross said Monday. “On the one hand, we are saving lives by giving monoclonal antibodies to the unvaccinated population, because they are certainly the most at risk of dying. On the other hand, we reward them for choosing not to be vaccinated, thus prolonging this pandemic – the worst public health crisis of our time. “

Cross pointed out that only 52% of the state’s residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine. She noted that Tennessee has used “a lot” of monoclonal antibodies due to low vaccination rates.

“There isn’t an unlimited supply of these antibodies, but doctors should be the decision-makers over who gets this treatment – not Governor Lee or Dr Piercey,” Cross said of the Health Commissioner of Canada. State.

Cross is a member of the governor’s coronavirus task force, which has not met since the summer of 2020. Yet she criticizes her mask decree, which she says puts people at risk, as well as the monoclonal antibody guideline.

“Our hospitals and frontline physicians see unvaccinated critically ill patients arriving every day, filling our intensive care units and increasing the availability of vital equipment like ventilators and ECMO units. And this is completely preventable, ”Cross said in a statement. “The problem is, Governor Lee and some radical politicians have made it a political problem from the start, seeking to divide us for political gain, instead of treating this pandemic like the health crisis it is.”

When Cross first spoke about the danger of the Delta variant in mid-August, 11,276 cases of COVID-19 infections were reported in school-aged children and 50 were hospitalized. Two died at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and eight were in the intensive care unit.

The problem is, Governor Lee and some radical politicians have made it a political issue from the start, seeking to divide us for political gain, instead of treating this pandemic like the health crisis it is.

– Dr Sarah Cross, Director of Infectious Diseases at Regional One Health in Memphis

Lee continued to defend his position last week against the mask requirements as well as President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees, saying he believes the mandates “thwart” the efforts of President Joe Biden. state to quell the pandemic.

The governor noted that he had encouraged people to get vaccinated, with more than 112,000 people having been vaccinated last week. But he declined to be photographed taking the vaccine and said he would not be involved in advertisements encouraging people to take the vaccine.

Additionally, Lee upheld his administration’s directive regarding the use of monoclonal antibodies on the unvaccinated, but gave himself a chance on two fronts.

He noted that the state was following guidelines set by the National Institutes of Health, but said the final decision about who receives monoclonal antibodies rests with clinicians.

“The good news is that the supply we are receiving from the federal government exceeds our current demand and has been for several weeks. We believe this will continue as our number of cases decreases and our need for monoclonal antibodies will decrease as will hospitalizations or infections, ”Lee told reporters.

When asked why the state is following the guidelines if there is no shortage of monoclonal antibodies, Lee reiterated that the state gives guidelines to clinicians, who make the decision to use them.

“So the state did not order this clinician to follow a directive. They gave and passed on the guidelines of the National Institutes of Health. “

The number of cases in Tennessee jumped 5,638 on Monday from the previous day and deaths rose by 85. Hospitalizations, by contrast, were down 142 from the day before, although 2,957 remain as of the previous day. hospital for COVID-19 treatment.

Tests have increased by 30,124 since Sunday with a positive rate of 15.9%. Over 9.7 million tests have been performed.

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