NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — A self-described "outspoken pastor" in Tennessee has shifted his political and COVID-19 criticism normally reserved for federal officials to the state's own Republican governor, making claims Governor Bill Lee's office and the Tennessee Department of Health show are not accurate.
A sermon by Global Vision Bible Church Pastor Greg Locke on Sunday criticized Governor Bill Lee's Executive Order 83 signed last week, calling the governor a "coward...noodle...waffler." The order extends previous orders aimed at ensuring an adequate staffing response should the healthcare system become strained as the delta variant continues to spread in Tennessee and the nation.
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Locke claimed "chicks" in hospitals are doing "Tik Tok dances," calling for someone to take a camera into a hospital to show "how empty they are."
According to the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), as of August 9, only 8% of ICU beds in the state (170 out of 2,048) are available. 537 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases are in the ICU while another 26 ICU cases are pending confirmation. As of August 9, there are also 266 confirmed cases on ventilators.
Going back to the order, Locke took issue with the National Guard's ability to assist in the COVID response, specifically Section 8 of the order.
They have authorized FEMA...the Tennessee Department of FEMA to build what they call in his own authorized pages of a signature...quarantine camps...for the uninformed people that are still in refusal to be vaccinated," Locke said.
Section 8 of the order was first signed and went into effect last year, using the same language as used in the current order which extends the ability of the National Guard to help with testing, driving emergency vehicles, and perform nursing duties — when properly trained — at alternate care sites.
Funds that were made available from FEMA in 2020 allowed for funding to build alternate care sites in Memphis and Nashville to help handle potential hospital overflow.
Just last month, however, Lee's office announced the sites had been deconstructed.
When early predictions pointed to a worst-case scenario of every state exceeding its COVID-19 patient capacity, we took immediate action in Tennessee to address the potential shortfall,” Lee said. “Tennessee’s alternate care sites provided our health care system with a margin of safety, and thankfully we did not need to open either site.
Locke acknowledged he might receive some backlash for the remarks, stating:
Let the hate mail show up...let the death threats show up...I'm gonna preach the love of Jesus Christ but if you think that means I'm going to bow out and capitulate and compromise to this buck wild tyrannical demon-possessed government and not tell what the truth is, you got the wrong one.
Locke responded to a WZTV inquiry on the sermon, the pastor stating "I stand by what I said. Governor Lee is sending our beautiful state down a very slippery slope."
Read Executive Order 83 below or CLICK HERE:
Lee's office also issued a response to the Executive Order (EO) and Locke's sermon, stating, "The recent EO temporarily deregulates certain requirements for hospitals like what spaces can be used to treat individuals seeking care, assistance to help with staffing shortages, etc. They are the exact same provisions that have been enacted previously when hospitals were facing strain. It only pertains to hospital operations."