The County-by-County Approach Has Not Worked in Tennessee

What happens in one county affects the other because we are, in fact, all in this together

I am Dr. Tracey Doering, a physician in Nashville, board certified in internal medicine and geriatric medicine.  I grew up in New Jersey, completed medical school at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and then moved to Nashville to complete my internship and residency.  The practice of medicine is very satisfying for me, and I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy all aspects of my career.  For the past 30 years my work has also included working with medical residents in the University of Tennessee residency program.

Dr. Tracey Doering

When coronavirus first hit Tennessee in March, there was a lot we didn’t know about it.  My infectious disease colleagues tell me that we have now learned a lot about how this virus is spread, and have some options for medications but certainly no cure and there are many things we are still learning.  What we do know, for sure, is that this is a VERY serious illness

It is very difficult to predict how this virus will affect the individual patient.  We know that, even without risk factors, healthy young people do die.  In our hospital, we have seen young and old die from COVID-19.  Some ICU patients are there for weeks.  Others, like the mother of one of our former residents, became infected with the virus and unfortunately died within 24 hours.

As a citizen and as a physician, I am often dismayed about the way this pandemic has been handled.  The United States should have been one of the most prepared countries in the world.  We should have led the way and set the example in managing this health care crisis.  Instead, this pandemic became  politicized and many of our elected leaders dropped the ball causing completely avoidable illness, hospitalizations and death.  We wouldn’t have saved every life, but we could have saved many, many more than we have lost.

I have been saddened to see that public health officials, whose very job it is to provide guidance through health crises like this, have been ignored by many leaders who have chosen rather to listen to politicians who have no knowledge or understanding of the science which informs public health policy. 

Unfortunately, this complete failure on the part of leadership has resulted in overflowing hospitals and exponential growth in the number of cases and deaths.

As a physician, I believe that advocacy is a critical component of the work I and my colleagues should be doing.  it is absolutely crucial that we step forward with information that will save the most lives.  

Governor Lee, I join my physician colleagues in begging you to issue a statewide mask mandate.  The county-by-county approach has not worked.  What happens in one county affects the others because we are, in fact, all in this together.  

We have seen the evidence and we know that counties who never adopted a mask mandate have COVID-19 death rates twice as high as counties with mandates.   This is not a partisan or political decision.  There are simple steps you can and must take – a statewide mask mandate and required social distancing, particularly in restaurants and bars.  Governor Lee, until we have a vaccine and coordinated statewide plan for controlling the spread of this virus, please help us save lives here in Tennessee.