Dr. Joel Reisman of Memphis writes:
I have known since I was a teenager, growing up in a small town in Arkansas, that I wanted to be a doctor. At first it was a quick answer to my father’s question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But, both my brother and I had health issues, and knowing that there was a way to help others like us seemed to be a good direction.
I retired last year from my medical practice of psychiatry. For the last 10 years, I have also volunteered regularly with Church Health in Memphis, which provides quality, affordable health care for uninsured, underserved people and their families. The disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on underserved communities has been exacerbated by our federal and state government’s slow response and mixed messages about how and whether it is safe to reopen our economy.
Everywhere I go, I see people walking around without masks, apparently believing that we are out of danger and that everyone is immune from this virus. Let me be clear – this virus has not gone away. It is still with us. As of July 13, there are over 65,000 cases of COVID 19 in Tennessee with a new daily high of 3,328 cases since yesterday. representing a 50% increase in cases since June 30. and those numbers are increasing rapidly. Thinking that this virus will take a summer break is wishful thinking.
I am an avid tennis player and have had to adapt my personal behavior as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. I have had asthma all my life, so I know that I must be especially careful in my efforts to avoid contracting this virus. I wear a glove, practice social distancing and bring my own chair. I do this not only to protect myself, but to protect others with whom I come in contact.
Reopening Tennessee’s economy was premature. We will not be safe until Governor Lee and our elected officials can ensure that regular, rapid and routine testing is available for every citizen, that rapid and efficient contact tracing that breaks the chains of transmission is in place, and that there is adequate protection for our health care workers and first responders.
I am asking Governor Lee to courageously represent the Tennesseans who are depending on him to protect them. Tennessee has been consistently recognized by the American Conservative Union as the most conservative state in the United States. These ratings are based on how elected officials view the role of government in an individual’s life, and the belief that “sovereignty resides in the person”.
Governor Lee, your responsibility is to consider the needs of all Tennessee citizens. Listen to the scientists, doctors, health experts and economists. Until you aggressively address this public health crisis, you are putting both workers and the general public at greater risk of a disease for which there is no cure, no treatment, and no defense; and this kind of strain will lead to further—perhaps even worse—economic devastation.