CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story should have stated that Dr. Jennifer Martin, a Vanderbilt University physician, initiated an online petition urging Gov. Bill Lee to consider implementing a mandatory shelter-in-place order in response to the coronavirus outbreak. It also should have stated that some 2,000 physicians were among 9,000 who had as of Sunday signed it.

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NASHVILLE — About 2,000 physicians so far have signed an online petition organized by Dr. Jennifer Martin, a Vanderbilt University physician, asking Gov. Bill Lee to strongly consider issuing a mandatory shelter-in-place order as five other states, including Texas, have done.

"COVID-19 is spreading rapidly throughout our state and communities," says the state's largest physician association. "Lives of Tennesseans and the health and well-being of our patients and our medical communities are at risk. Our only chance to flatten the curve and save lives is to physically distance from each other. Please consider signing the petition to ask Gov. Bill Lee to make social distancing mandatory."

Lee has already signed two executive orders in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. And on Friday, the governor urged churches not to hold large services.

TMA President Dr. Elise Denneny and TMA president-elect Dr. Kevin Smith say in their letter to association members that Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pulmonary/critical care specialist in Franklin, has worked with ICU physicians across the state to develop the petition for the order in an "attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus in Tennessee. California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Texas have already issued similar state-wide orders."

"Tennessee is reporting 371 cases today with 140 in Davidson County," the letter notes. "Our statewide doubling rate is currently less than 2 days. On this pace we will have over 1,200 cases in Tennessee by Tuesday."

Hamilton County had reported 8 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, March 22. Statewide cases increased to 505 Sunday. 

"In the absence of aggressive testing and tracking positive patients and contacts (which we are not doing yet), restricting activities and movement of people is the best weapon we have to slow virus. South Korea controlled this with aggressive testing and quarantine. China and Wuhan won with aggressively enforced lockdowns," the letter continues.

"While no one is proposing a total lockdown in the USA, anything that will restrict people from gathering and meeting will likely slow spread significantly. This will conserve resources such as PPE, swabs, beds, ventilators, etc."

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.