Critical care doctors send strong message on masks to Tennessee governor

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nearly 50 critical care doctors from around Tennessee are asking Gov. Bill Lee for a statewide mask mandate and tougher punishments for those who violate those requirements.

The doctors are coming together to send a strong message to the governor after they say private messages and meetings aren’t getting the message through.

“I’ve never had this in my whole career, where people didn’t believe what I was telling them about a disease,” said critical care physician Dr. Murray Arons. “We need our state government to send a message loud and clear that they believe how serious this is and how dangerous this is.”

Memphis lung doctor Jeff Wright, who’s treating patients at Baptist East, said the hospital’s most critical patient is an otherwise healthy 22-year-old woman who was put on life support one day after she checked into the hospital. She’s been hospitalized for five weeks.

While she still has hope, Shelby County is now reporting 200 deaths from COVID-19.

“If others who cared about them had worn masks and kept themselves distanced from these patients, they would’ve lived,” said Dr. Jigme Sethi, chief of pulmonology at Erlanger Hospital in East Tennessee.

In response to their calls, the governor’s office sent a statement to WREG where officials highlighted Gov. Lee’s executive order giving county mayors authority to issue mask requirements and setting stronger expectations that they will.

Memphis and Shelby County already have ordinances and health directives mandating masks in public.

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