Gov. Bill Lee at the dedication of a Tyson chicken plant in Humboldt, Tennessee in March, pictured with plant workers. (Photo: John Partipilo)
COVID-19 deaths are now preventable, and Gov. Bill Lee should be held accountable for politicizing the pandemic, said a coalition of physicians battling the virus on the frontlines.
On Wednesday, Dr. Jason Martin, a critical care pulmonologist, and other health professionals called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Lee after recent political moves against public health officials and policies.
On Monday, Tennessee’s top vaccine official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, was fired by the Tennessee Department of Health. Tuesday, news came that the department has stopped vaccine outreach to children, not only for COVID-19 but for all preventable childhood diseases. The move comes amid pressure from the GOP and the anti-vaccine movement in response to nationwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Tennessee currently ranks 47th in the nation for first dose vaccinations, and only 43% of adults have received their first shot. COVID-19 outbreaks have spread due to the Delta variant, and although initial studies showed that the vaccine was effective against the new strains, preventable deaths continue to rise.
In response, Martin and other health care professionals are calling on the Justice Department to investigate Lee for suppressing vital information to prevent the spread of the disease.
When asked what actions from the governor he considered illegal, Martin responded that the DOJ needs to investigate whether it’s illegal to stop life-saving policies.
“Is it okay to stop promoting interventions that are saving people’s lives?” said Martin.
Over the past year, Martin has treated COVID-19 patients and described his experiences during a press conference.
“I witnessed hundreds of deaths from COVID-19 at that time, and each one has been painful and personal. I held up a lot of iPads while moms, dads, brothers and sisters wailed and watched their loved ones die remotely while I held the hand of the dying patient with my other hand,” he said.
“All of these deaths are tragic. What’s particularly tragic though, is the deaths that are occuring now are preventable. They are preventable with a free, safe and simple vaccine,” he added.
The biggest threat to Tennesseans and the state’s economic recovery is now Lee’s attacks on public health and safety, said Martin, as well as halting vaccine outreach to children ahead of the upcoming school sessions.
Hendrell Remus, the chair of the Tennessee Democratic party, also called on Lee to reinstate Fiscus.
“It is a reminder of the fringe ideology that has consumed the Republican Party and its elected representatives,” said Remus.
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