In some quarters in Tennessee, some people are spreading wildly inaccurate information about the measures the administration of Gov. Bill Lee is taking to have people vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and he wants it to stop.
Lee had his legislative director, Brent Easley, send a letter to members of the General Assembly earlier this week asking them to "join us in sharing the facts" about his efforts with their constituents. Because of the gravity of the situation, we'd have preferred that he addressed the information personally.
In non-pandemic times, we'd think this was a dirty trick by opponents of the Lee administration or a satire, but the suggestion of "quarantine camps," round-ups of the unvaccinated by the National Guard, the forced vaccination of citizens in their homes, the preparation for permanent lockdowns, and vaccination of cattle so vaccines would be passed on through the food supply is no laughing matter.
"All of these examples, and related rumors," Easley wrote, "are demonstrably false."
The irony of the situation is that to others in the state the conservative Republican Lee hasn't been vociferous enough in his endorsement of COVID-19 vaccines. They charge he didn't promote his receiving the vaccine, hasn't offered incentives for people to take the vaccine and was wrong to support the firing of the state's vaccinations coordinator because of her outreach to teenagers.
The letter to legislators states "a number of you have reached out seeking information for your constituents as they have contacted you regarding several conspiracy theories that are unfortunately being shared as fact."
It explains the misinformation apparently is coming from an executive order Lee signed last week which allows National Guard members to assist with the state's response of COVID-19 (as they have been), permits telehealth assessments to be used in regard to existing mental health commitment procedures and allows the flexibility for hospitals to use alternative care sites on their grounds for care if needed.
It's a sad day when a governor personally, or in this case through an assistant, has to ask that conspiracy theories be tamped down. It's also emblematic of the times we live in when such theories have any such credence, especially when correct information is an email click away.
The Nashville Tennessean cited, for instance, a claim during his sermon last Sunday by Greg Locke, the pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet, that Lee had authorized the state to build "quarantine camps."
Other fringe right-wing groups, according to the newspaper, emailed supporters with the charges that National Guard and State Guard troops have been authorized "to break into peoples' homes, kidnap them at gunpoint, and take them to COVID internment camps."
No matter where the information originated, we hope all legislators will help quell these terrible rumors. It's to the advantage of everyone eligible to be vaccinated, but no one — least of all Lee — is suggesting such dictatorial steps be taken to achieve such an end.
We hoped we might see such information on the Facebook sites of state legislators Friday, but none had taken that step. They still can.
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