Unity urges local government to enforce tougher restrictions

UPDATE APR. 2: Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell said Apr. 2 that the county will not take any action at this time.

"The State of Emergency declaration we signed is as far as the county can go," Cordell said. "We are waiting on further declaration from the governor. We feel it's up to the governor to implement further restrictions. This is uncharted territory for us, and we are reviewing daily. We are all working together."

STORY POSTED APR. 1: Unity Medical Center urged Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell, Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman and Tullahoma Mayor Lane Curlee to take additional steps to strengthen the current “safer at home” status, in a letter sent today, Apr. 1.

“We ask that Coffee County residents be required to restrict travel to only if absolutely essential,” the letter states. “All essential businesses with public access (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) should be required to limit the number of people in the establishment at any given time to maintain social distancing guidelines, with others waiting in their vehicles. We urge any such business to screen customers before allowing access if access is necessary. We believe the ‘carry out only’ or ‘delivery’ method which has been mandated on the restaurants should be mandated on all essential businesses when at all possible. Moreover, Coffee County should coordinate with neighboring counties to promote similar practices to limit travel outside the county.”

While Coffee County has one confirmed case, Franklin County added two more confirmed COVID-19 cases to the list today when the Tennessee Department of Health updated its statistics, setting the total at seven.

In addition to Franklin County, six COVID-19 cases have been reported in Grundy County, and four in Bedford County.

Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman has no comment at this time, said Sage Keele, executive administrative assistant for Manchester City.

All orders regarding additional restrictions in the county would have to come from Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell or Coffee County Health Department Director Debbie Dickey.

Cordell said Apr. 2 that the county will not take any action at this time.

"The State of Emergency declaration we signed is as far as the county can go," Cordell said. "We are waiting on further declaration from the governor. We feel it's up to the governor to implement further restrictions. This is uncharted territory for us, and we are reviewing daily. We are all working together."

Full letter from Unity  

While both hospitals in Coffee County are closely watching guidance from the CDC and preparing to care for an influx of COVID-19 patients, there is a practical limit to how many patients we can accommodate. Coffee County has its first confirmed case as the number of confirmed patients continues to climb in Tennessee. Undoubtedly and unfortunately, with the continued spread of the virus and better access to testing, we will see the number of patients in Coffee County grow as well. With ICU rooms, PPE, ventilators and staff in short supply, hospitals face enormous challenges and Unity Medical Center is no different. The CARES Act allocated $100 billion to hospitals and health care systems to help prepare for the coming wave of patients, but there are still no guidelines on how and when the funds will be distributed.

At Unity, we are recommissioning our ICU unit and have set up an off-site location to care for lower acuity, non-COVID patients if we are overly taxed at our main facility. Despite diligent efforts to prepare, there is only so much that any of us can do to increase capacity for the surge. As has been widely discussed, the best chance we have to care for as many affected patients as possible is to limit the number of patients that need care at a given time. Simply put, we can care for thousands of patients, but we cannot care for thousands of patients at the same time.  

Consequently, Unity Medical Center strongly recommends that Coffee County Government take additional steps to strengthen the current “safer at home” status of the entire state. We ask that Coffee County residents be required to restrict travel to only if absolutely essential. We encourage people to go outside to exercise, but should not congregate anywhere, inside or out. All essential businesses with public access (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) should be required to limit the number of people in the establishment at any given time to maintain social distancing guidelines, with others waiting in their vehicles. We urge any such business to screen customers before allowing access if access is necessary. We believe the “carry out only” or “delivery” method which has been mandated on the restaurants should be mandated on all essential businesses when at all possible. Moreover, Coffee County should coordinate with neighboring counties to promote similar practices to limit travel outside the county.

We understand the burden and inconvenience such a policy will place on residents and businesses. However, limiting interpersonal interaction is quite literally a matter of life or death. We have witnessed the devastating potential of the virus in New York, New Jersey, Seattle, Italy, Iran and Spain without appropriate containment measures. What many might label as overreaction today may be viewed as the steps that turned the tables on the fight against this virus. Any slowing of the spread will increase our chance of caring for and saving more patients.  

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