KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Republicans in the Tennessee Senate have signed an open letter urging Tennesseans to get a COVID-19 vaccine as cases spike across the country. The letter states, “This should not be political,” and reaffirms that the state will never institute mandatory vaccinations.
Sixteen of 27 Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus members signed the letter released Tuesday amid a recent spike in cases that caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to released revised guidelines on wearing face coverings in public.
The signatories from East Tennessee are Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (Oak Ridge), Ken Yager (Kingston), Jon Lundburg (Bristol), Becky Massey (Knoxville), and Art Swann (Maryville). Knoxville Senator Richard Briggs, who is also a heart and lung surgeon, is also amongst the list of names.
“Although we have made progress, COVID-19 is not over,” the opening paragraph of the letter reads. “There has been a recent spike in the number of cases, which includes the virus’s more contagious delta variant. A strong majority of these cases are among those who are not vaccinated. And virtually all of those currently hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.”
The letter reiterates that the state will not require mandatory vaccinations or vaccine passports for residents.
“We recognize this is a personal choice. However, we urge every Tennessean to consider the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine and talk to your doctor about their recommendations on the best way to protect yourself and your family against COVID-19,” the letter continues.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health, told reporters that 97% of all hospitalizations in the state and more than 98% of deaths are residents who have not received the vaccine.
“Every life lost to this virus is tragic. The COVID-19 vaccines save lives. Again, we strongly urge
all Tennesseans to study the facts, talk to your doctor, and get vaccinated,” the letter concludes.