We have really competent and capable medical professionals that have given us the tools and a road map to end this pandemic. But somehow we’ve given rise to people who research things on the internet and weigh that against people with 40 years of medical credentials. — Larsen Jay, Knox County Commission Chairman
We have really competent and capable medical professionals that have given us the tools and a road map to end this pandemic. But somehow we’ve given rise to people who research things on the internet and weigh that against people with 40 years of medical credentials. — Larsen Jay, Knox County Commission Chairman
In Tennessee's Covid Struggles, Some See Political Roots
Tennessee has recently been a livid purple bruise on a map charting coronavirus hot spots in the United States, and political considerations appear to be contributing to the problem, state officials, hospital administrators and political scientists said.

Tennessee has recently been reporting more new coronavirus cases, relative to its population, than any other state — as of Sunday, an average of 109 for every 100,000 people — and the state’s hospitalizations and deaths have also been very high, according to a New York Times database.

Only 44 percent of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated, and its hospitals are being inundated with Covid-19 patients.

In interviews, officials said that Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, was politically constrained by a deeply conservative legislature and a political base that became more uncompromising during the pandemic.

... Some Republican politicians in Tennessee say Mr. Lee’s approach amounts to choosing political expedience over the well-being of the state.

“The governor understands completely the seriousness of the problem, and I think that hard decisions are being tempered by political realities, which is that he has an election next year,” said Dr. Richard Briggs, a surgeon and Republican state senator representing Knoxville. Dr. Briggs described the surge of cases in Tennessee as a “completely self-inflicted crisis.”

Mr. Lee retains his party’s public support. The speaker of the house in Tennessee, Cameron Sexton, mirrored the governor’s objection of Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandates. And Kelly Keisling, a Republican state representative, has similarly said the mandates are “an overreach.”

Dr. Briggs said the governor is trying to cater to rural voters who have become increasingly hostile to health measures like masks and vaccines as a result of “the misinformation and disinformation” that they hear in conservative media.

“He’s trying to walk this tightrope between doing what he knows would mitigate the effects of the disease, versus the political reality that it may be hard to win an election because of this radical group,” Dr. Briggs said.

... Tennessee has been here before. Last December, before vaccines were widely available, the state had the nation’s highest rate of new cases per capita and a high number of deaths. Then, too, Mr. Lee argued against statewide mask requirements.

“This is the byproduct of a long and frustrating battle with politics instead of professional health care,” ​​said Larsen Jay, a Knox County Commissioner, who in March was the sole Republican to vote against stripping the local health board of regulatory authority. Its powers were transferred largely to the county mayor, who has refused to issue any new pandemic restrictions.

“We have really competent and capable medical professionals that have given us the tools and a road map to end this pandemic,” Mr. Jay said. “But somehow we’ve given rise to people who research things on the internet and weigh that against people with 40 years of medical credentials.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/20/us/tennessee-covid.html