BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – As the Tennessee legislature kicked off its third extraordinary session of the 112th General Assembly, one of the topics of discussion has irked a local public health official.
Legislatures have made it clear they hope to assert control over independent health departments. There are six in the state of Tennessee: Nashville, Shelby County, Hamilton County, Madison County, Knox County and Sullivan County.
Sullivan County Regional Health Department’s Medical Director Dr. Stephen May criticized the general assembly Wednesday for getting involved in matters of medicine and further politicizing the pandemic.
“Sullivan County has been in a very unique position,” May said. “We have worked from day one with our county leaders and they have been exceptional to work with. And as such, we’ve had a great relationship. Our mandates have been put out together. Not one single side or another. We work cooperatively. We work very well with our school systems. It’s been the school boards that’s been more difficult to work with; our school systems have been outstanding.”
He had a stern message for the legislature to boot:
“And for Sullivan County, my reaction will be: ‘just leave us alone. We’re doing okay,'” he said.
May has publically said multiple times throughout the pandemic that the novel coronavirus has been over-politicized, and on Wednesday, he asked that the Tennessee legislature cease to do so.
“So looking at the politics, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to mix politics with, certainly medical science and medical data and the ability to protect the public health and it’s a very complex subject, even for public health specialists. And when you start mixing in the politics, as it has for our country and for our state, it has been disastrous,” he said.
News Channel 11 spoke with Rep. Scotty Campbell (R) Wednesday before the special session began.
“We’re gonna continue to have conversations about the health boards and the decision-making process. Do you want an unelected board making mandates about your daily life? Would you rather an elected official do that or is there a way we can put even more freedom in place for people?” Campbell said.