Statement Responding to Gov. Lee's "Reopening TN" Plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Today, Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pulmonologist currently treating Covid-19 patients and organizer of the 9,500 health care workers who petitioned the Governor for a Stay at Home Order issued this statement ahead of the Governor's May 1st 'reopening' plan for Tennessee:

"You are hearing mixed messages from politicians about whether it’s safe to reopen our economy and begin engaging with businesses again. Let us be clear:  It. Is. Not.

Covid-19 is five times more infectious than the flu. It often travels asymptomatically, in people who show no symptoms for weeks. The death rate is nearly 10 times that of the normal flu and unlike the flu, there is currently no treatment, no vaccine, and no defense — except physical separation from people.

We want to see things get back to normal as much as you do. Many of us doctors are small business owners ourselves; many of us have spouses, family and friends hurting because they have lost their job or seen their work hours cut. But, we cannot address the economic crisis without first solving the health crisis that created it. To solve this crisis we need Gov. Lee, our members of Congress and Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lamar Alexander to do their jobs so that we can do ours. They need to provide leadership in containing this pandemic and support Americans through this economic storm so that we can all get back to work safely sooner.

Non-essential employers should not force members of the public or employees to come together, and the public should stay a apart from each other until Gov. Lee and our federal government leaders have ensured:

  1. rapid contact tracing and isolation of cases that breaks chains of transmission when they are discovered.(because, as long as it takes days or weeks to track down and quarantine infected people, it is too soon to reopen safely).

  2. regular, routine, and rapid testing (because a test today only shows whether you are infected TODAY, and that does nothing to determine whether you get infected tomorrow at work).  Only regular, routine testing for EVERY citizen will solve this problem.

  3. Adequate protection for first responders and health care workers from infection (because as we become infected and quarantined, there are fewer health care workers to save lives in our communities and right now too many are lacking adequate supplies.)

These are big challenges that only Gov. Lee, Senator Alexander, Senator Blackburn and other federal officials can solve at a level large enough to protect lives — and our economy. Despite contradictory instructions from Gov. Lee, President Trump and many other politicians, your medical community is asking that you stay apart to save lives — and our economy — from a far worse outcome." said Milstone.

Dr. Milstone added, "If we roll back health protections and reopen our economy too soon, without addressing the health crisis first, it puts more hospital workers' lives at stake; and if hospitals risk seeing spikes in patients, those conditions could lead to a shortage of beds, medical supplies — and doctors to treat patients.

If employers bring workers and the public back together without Gov. Lee and these federal officials first addressing the health crisis, then they will be putting both their workers and the public at greater risk of a disease for which there is no cure, no treatment, and no defense; and this kind of strain would lead to further—perhaps even worse—economic devastation.

So, our message to Tennesseans is simple: please stay at home and stay apart from each other until Gov. Lee and your members of Congress have adequately addressed the health crisis and these issues. Only then can we reopen safely."