Dr. Deborah Birx told reporters Monday that Tennessee could be in a good position to battle the latest wave of COVID-19.
The White House coronavirus response coordinator said the main way to accomplish this is for Tennesseans to wear masks and the state to shut down its bars.
Birx met with Gov. Bill Lee, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and other state leaders to discus her concerns about the latest increase in coronavirus cases across the state.
After the meeting, Birx told reporters she was particularly worried about rural counties.
“The virus is there,” she said. “You may not see it today because it may still be in young people, but it’s spreading.”
So Birx is asking county mayors in rural parts of the state to issue mask mandates. She recognized there might be some resistance in those counties but said rural mayors and Trump supporters should get on board, since the president himself is now recommending face masks.
Meanwhile, Birx is also recommending the state to shut down bars and restrict indoor dining across the state to reduce the number of positive cases.
“This is our recommendation at the federal level, based on science and evidence of what we think would have the greater impact on saving more Tennessean lives and decreasing the spread of this virus,” Birx said.
Moments after Birx spoke to the press, Gov. Bill Lee told reporters he is not considering issuing a statewide mandate to wear masks or shut down bars. But he claimed there’s nothing “off the table.”
“I’ve also said that we are not going to close the economy back down,” Lee said. “But I appreciate their recommendation, and we take them seriously.”
Tennessee Doctors Renew Calls For Statewide Mandate
As Dr. Birx visited with state officials, a group of Tennessee physicians made a more forceful plea to issue a statewide mask mandate. Doctors with “Protect My Care” spoke at a virtual press conference and noted that Gov. Lee can no longer argue that COVID-19 is concentrated in the state’s urban centers.
“We need a shared battle plan,” says Dr. Amy Bono, an internist in Hermitage. “Delegating this leadership to individual counties and school systems is just a plain inefficient way of doing things.”
Bono says the patchwork is leading to more confusion and less compliance.