Faith leaders and physicians called on Gov. Bill Lee to institute a mask mandate and to use Tennessee’s $741 million earmarked for families to assist Tennesseans on the verge of eviction from COVID-19-related financial losses.
Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) organized the Tuesday event, which was held at St. John AME Church in North Nashville. The event was labeled a “Public Lamentation,” representing a Judeo-Christian tradition of mourning, to draw attention to the high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Tennessee.
“We are dying in a leadership vacuum,” said Dr. Amy Gordon Bono, an internist affiliated with Protect My Care. “We have now filled the Ryman Auditorium about three times with the souls lost to this pandemic, this preventable illness.”
NOAH members planted handmade stars, one for each of the 5,000 Tennesseans to have died of COVID-19.
Until recently, Tennessee had led the nation in new COVID cases per million per day but now ranks third for COVID cases, trailing behind California and Arizona, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Donald Trump recently signed a second stimulus check and authorized the extension of the eviction moratorium until Jan. 31, but advocates say that the eviction crisis has only been delayed.
“Tennessee is facing two crises. Thousands of deaths from COVID-19 and the pending evictions of even more Tennessee families with children who struggle to pay their rent due to the COVID-19 financial crisis,” said the Rev. Edward Thompson, chair of NOAH.
NOAH leaders have been critical of Gov. Lee’s lack of COVID-19 regulations, as Tennessee is one of 12 states without a statewide mask mandate.
“Mask mandates do save lives,” said Davie Tucker, a pastor at Beech Creek Missionary Baptist Church.
The stars can be seen in the churchyard of St. John AME Church located at 1822 Formosa Street, Nashville.