JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- As governor Bill Lee prepares to extend his executive order allowing county mayors to enact face mask mandates, healthcare workers worry it might not be enough.
On Monday- the state of Tennessee set a single-day record for new COVID-19 cases with more than 3,300 cases.
“We have to do something different,” said assistant professor of internal medicine for ETSU, Dr. Blair Reece. “If nothing changes- then we are going to be talking everyday… talking about new records.”
In Northeast Tennessee, Washington and Greene Counties set records for the single largest one day increase with 89 and 64 cases respectively.
“Early in the pandemic- we were seeing a lot of cases related to travel… we were seeing cases related to events and things like that,” said Ballad Health’s Chief Infection Prevention Officer, Jamie Swift. “Now, we’re just seeing random cases across all communities.. all ages… There’s really no clusters of cases that we’re finding… so we have ongoing widespread transmission.”
Almost nine months into the pandemic- Swift and Dr. Reece say mandates alone aren’t enough.
“A mandate is just words. People have to be willing to practice wearing the mask all the time in public… 100% of the time and the correct way,” Dr. Reece said. “It has to cover the nose and the mouth. If it’s not doing that- you might as well not have a mask on at all.”
Large group gatherings have created more issues.
“Even if everybody’s still wearing a mask,” Dr. Reece said. “There is still some risk of transmission. So, it really is those large group gatherings.. especially inside that are the biggest problem.”
With flu season nearing- health officials are worried hospitals and healthcare systems could become overwhelmed.
“You watch the national news and there are doctors on there begging people to please change their behaviors because hospitals across the nation are stretched and so we’re no different in this region…. Our staff are exhausted,” Swift said. “We’re asking the world from them and so, we’re just asking on behalf of your healthcare workers for our community to really try to slow this down. Let’s slow the hospitalizations down. Let’s really get things trending in the right direction.”
With Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner both Dr. Reece and Swift say they aren’t even sure small family gatherings.
“Out breaks can happen at a small family gatherings.” Dr. Reece said. “We all have to have to have really hard conversations with our family members about Thanksgiving, Christmas, those big get togethers that we all love to have and I just don’t know that it’s safe “