Gov. Lee hopes parents send children to school in masks, despite signing order allowing opt-outs of mandates

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When it comes to new COVID-19 cases, Tennessee is trending in the wrong direction.

The state’s seven-day average of more than 7,000 new cases is near the record-high numbers from December 2020. Tennessee also reported a record-high 3,501 current hospitalizations for COVID on Thursday.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Governor Bill Lee addressed the “difficult position” Tennessee is currently in amid the latest COVID spike.

“We’re in a very difficult position in our state with regard to this moment in time with the pandemic. Particularly with this variant, it’s moved from state to state, multiple states, leading the charge. Now we’re in the spot that has the highest case per capita, that makes us all very concerned.”

That, along with a surge in pediatric cases, has prompted questions over the governor’s recent executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of mask mandates in schools.

On Thursday, Lee said parents should consider having their children wear masks.

“Districts do have the ability to impose mask requirements across the state,” said Lee. “Every parent has the ability to send their kid to school with a mask, you ought to consider that, and I hope they’ll do it.”

Tennessee schools returned to the classroom in August for the new year. By the end of the month, over 42,000 cases of COVID were reported for school-age children (5-18 years) – nearly doubling the record of 24,626 cases in school-age children set in December 2020.

During the same press conference on Thursday, Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said nearly 40% of the cases in the last week were among children.

A number of school districts have announced closures due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Currently, kids under the age of 12 are not eligible for a vaccine.

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