NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee has answered questions concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been a couple of weeks since Lee and the Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey updated the state on what’s happening.

This comes as new CDC studies paint a grimmer picture of COVID-19 spread among schools with no mask mandates.

“A vaccine is the most important tool that we have to battle this pandemic,” Lee said.

On the heels of surging COVID -19 cases that are beginning to tick down, Lee touted a rise in vaccinations.

“We are encouraged by the numbers of people that are continuing- over 100,000 in the past week 112,000, I think,” Lee said.

Tennessee’s 50th Governor is also now trying to clear up recommendations from his administration sent to healthcare providers asking that they prioritize those who are unvaccinated over the vaccinated in monoclonal antibody therapy treatments.

“So the state gives guidelines to clinicians, but clinicians make that decision so the state does not direct that clinician follow a guideline,” Lee said.

Three new CDC studies are bringing in to question the Governor’s approach to banning mask mandates in schools.

According to new CDC research “school districts without a universal masking policy in place were more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks. Nationwide, counties without masking requirements saw the number of pediatric COVID-19 cases increase nearly twice as quickly during this same period.”

Lee remarked, “We made a decision to allow schools to mandate masks and to have masks requirements and to give parents the ability to opt out of that we think that’s the right path forward.”

While cases have slightly drop, deaths are rising, and doctors said there’s still a high COVID transmission.

However, Governor Lee is sticking by his strategy and says more deaths are expected to come.

“As cases counts rise, death counts are slower to rise. But, as case counts drop, those death counts follow them, and first they rise and then drop. So, that’s what we expect will happen in the days ahead,” he said.

Despite doing previous state sponsored commercials advocating for various things, the governor is drawing a line on starring in a commercial to promote the shot.

“I have no plans to personally be involved in those commercials. Even though, I will say that we are encouraging people to get vaccinated,” Lee said.

Nearly 1,200 Tennesseans have died of COVID complications in the month of September so far.

The governor’s current mask opt-out order is set to expire October 5th. The governor did not commit to extending or letting the order expire as of Friday.