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Tennessee doctors worry about 'tsunami' of COVID-19 cases

"We're not effectively stopping the transmission"-President of the Tennessee Medical Association

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — "It is really scary," said Dr. Elise Denneny, summing up her concern and the concerns echoed by many of dozens of her colleagues in the medical field about the COVID-19 crisis.  

They are watching the spike in COVID-19 cases in other states like New York and are expressing grave concerns about the need for a "stay at home" order from Governor Bill Lee that will blanket the state.  

At the moment, there are a patchwork of urban areas in particular that have issued a formal directive for people to stay in their homes.

"If the curve spikes, we're not ready.  If the curve flattens we are ready," said Dr. Denneny, the President of the Tennessee Medical Association, during a Facetime interview Thursday morning wearing a surgical mask and tucked in a quiet corner of a Knoxville emergency room.

"I think the letter that was signed by the Tennessee Medical Association and physicians is absolutely correct," reiterated Knoxville doctor and state senator Richard Briggs.   

But Dr. Briggs pointed out in addition to the medical crisis, the governor is also weighing the economic and social impact of a "stay at home" order across all 95 counties.  

He raised the concern about school children being able to still receive meals and impact on small rural businesses forced to shutter their doors under stricter home confinement orders.  

"For instance, Pickett County has only about 500 residents in the whole county, so their risk may be a whole lot less. They may not need the same order than a place like Davidson County where we are seeing the highest number of cases," said Dr. Briggs.

It is a move went on to explain may have great benefit in urban areas but could deal a devastating blow to some rural areas that wouldn't see the same benefit.

"That is where we are trying to balance the medical recommendations, which are absolutely correct...against some of the social and economic conditions that would occur if he (Governor Lee) ordered a complete shutdown," said Dr. Briggs. 

"We can kill the virus if we stay at home," explained Dr. Denneny, and that is a point on which both she and Dr. Briggs agree.

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