At least 80% of the U.S. population is under a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order, according to a CNN count. In Tennessee, Lee has resisted issuing a mandate, opting instead to issue an order that strongly urges residents to stay at home.
"I want again, to speak to the Tennesseans, who have the privilege and the capacity to safely stay home for the next two weeks. We need you to do that," Lee said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Signed Monday, the order closes non-essential businesses that were still open, like hair salons, spas, theaters, concert venues and other entertainment establishments. Churches are exempt from the state order which took effect overnight on Tuesday.
Lee said Monday that he was not issuing a mandated shelter in place order because it is "deeply important to me" to protect personal liberties.
Dr. Aaron Milstone, a Franklin County-based acute care pulmonologist, is part of a group of doctors that have been critical of Lee's decision not to issue a mandate.
"Urging people is not a mandate," Milstone said. "Unfortunately human psyche is unless you are told what to do, and there are some teeth in that telling, you won't do it."
Milstone likened the Covid-19 outbreak to a Category 5 hurricane where mandates are issued for the public's safety.
"Covid-19 is going to be larger than any Category 5 hurricane to hit," Milstone said. "It is going to make Katrina look like a rain shower. (Governor Lee) needs to stop politicizing this pandemic."
Petition from doctors for stay-at-home order
Milstone's group joined with the Tennessee Medical Association to organize an online petition that, as of Wednesday morning, had nearly 30,000 signatures of both doctors and residents in support of the governor issuing a stay-at-home order.
Nearly every medical association and more than 100 mayors across the state have endorsed this cause as well, according to Milstone.
Millstone and nine other medical leaders sent a letter to the governor last week urging him to "act swiftly."
"It is our estimation that we have little time to "flatten the curve" on the current situation," the letter reads. "China and South Korea have made great progress by imposing restrictive measures. We ask that Tennessee do the same."
Milstone's letter was accompanied by a letter from the Middle Tennessee Mayors Caucus urging the governor to listen to the outcry from the medical community.
"We feel strongly that the quickest path to recovery is a uniform response to this challenge," the letter reads, adding that the mayors "must also emphasize that our ability to manage the pandemic at the local level is limited and varied."
Milstone said he has been modeling what Tennessee may need on projections on the demand for hospital usage in each state by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Based on the institute's modeling, Milstone said the outbreak may peak in three weeks, Tennessee will be short 7,000 hospital beds and 1,700 ICU beds, and in need of 2,000 ventilators the state does not have.