TN Dr worries about hospital bed capacity during latest COVID-19 surge


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —Another Tennessee doctor is calling on Gov. Bill Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate as she shares concerns about not being able to take care of some patients due to hospital bed capacity.

Dr. Amanda Harris is a hospitalist physician in Nashville, meaning her main job is to take care of acutely ill hospitalized patients.

Dr. Harris shared some of her harrowing experiences during COVID-19, including putting the phone to a virus patient's ear as he was being intubated so family could speak with him.

"I'm so glad I did that because that was their last opportunity to talk to him," Dr. Harris said. "These patients are all somebody's father, somebody's sister, somebody's mother, somebody's brother -- you name it. It has been extremely emotionally taxing to see just how devastating this virus can be."

With flu season in full swing and some concerns about a post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge, Dr. Harris is worried about care for some of her other patients.

"I am concerned that we will not have the bed capacity we need to take care of our typical stroke patients, heart attack patients, and bacterial pneumonia patients as coronavirus spreads uncontrollably," Dr. Harris said.

The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report states Tennessee saw an 8% increase in hospitalizations from Nov. 14 through Nov. 20. It called for leaders to take aggressive mitigation efforts.

Protect my Care, a statewide coalition of more than 2,000 doctors, is calling on Gov. Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate -- something he remains adamant about not implementing.

Tennessee doesn't have a statewide mask mandate, instead Gov. Lee has given local governments in 89 counties the authority to implement mask mandates.

"A mask is extremely effective in preventing the transmission of infectious droplets into a lesser degree of aerosols. If both people are wearing a mask, the effect is additive. This has a huge effect on COVID transmission. Listening to basic science will allow our communities to get back to normal quicker and ultimately get our economies moving quicker," Dr. Harris said.

Dr. Harris says counties that haven't implemented a mask mandate, or eliminated it, have only seen COVID-19 get worse.

"Like many Tennesseans, I want to go back to normal, and I want to be done with this virus, but unfortunately, the virus is not done with us," Dr. Harris said. "There has been a lot of misinformation about the coronavirus virus, so please listen. This virus is real."

Meanwhile, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville confirmed to FOX 17 News on Monday that it is pausing some elective procedures right now.

This comes as nine of Middle Tennessee's most prominent medical leaders are begging Tennesseans to fight back against the spread of COVID-19, warning that if we don't, our hospital systems may not be able to handle it. In an open letter, leaders state that this second COVID-19 wave that we're experiencing is bigger and more deadly than the first.