At least 80% of the U.S. population is under a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order, according to a CNN count. In Tennessee, Lee has resisted issuing a mandate, opting instead to issue an order that strongly urges residents to stay at home.
“I want again, to speak to the Tennesseans, who have the privilege and the capacity to safely stay home for the next two weeks. We need you to do that,” Lee said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Signed Monday, the order closes non-essential businesses that were still open, like hair salons, spas, theaters, concert venues and other entertainment establishments. Churches are exempt from the state order which took effect overnight on Tuesday.
Lee said Monday that he was not issuing a mandated shelter in place order because it is “deeply important to me” to protect personal liberties.
Dr. Aaron Milstone, a Franklin County-based acute care pulmonologist, is part of a group of doctors that have been critical of Lee’s decision not to issue a mandate.
“Urging people is not a mandate,” Milstone said. “Unfortunately human psyche is unless you are told what to do, and there are some teeth in that telling, you won’t do it.”
Milstone likened the Covid-19 outbreak to a Category 5 hurricane where mandates are issued for the public’s safety.
“Covid-19 is going to be larger than any Category 5 hurricane to hit,” Milstone said. “It is going to make Katrina look like a rain shower. (Governor Lee) needs to stop politicizing this pandemic.”
Petition from doctors for stay-at-home order
Nearly every medical association and more than 100 mayors across the state have endorsed this cause as well, according to Milstone.
“It is our estimation that we have little time to “flatten the curve” on the current situation,” the letter reads. “China and South Korea have made great progress by imposing restrictive measures. We ask that Tennessee do the same.”
“We feel strongly that the quickest path to recovery is a uniform response to this challenge,” the letter reads, adding that the mayors “must also emphasize that our ability to manage the pandemic at the local level is limited and varied.”
CNN’s Alicia Lee contributed to this report.