TENNESSEE (WATE) — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has signed an Executive Order that gives parents the ability to opt their child out of school mask mandates if enacted by a school district or health board.
In a speech given Monday, Governor Lee declared that while “local decision-making is important, individual decision-making by a parent on issues regarding the health and well-being of their child is the most important.”
This announcement comes hours after the Tennessee Department of Health reported that the first half of August has seen more new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state than any full month of the pandemic.
Lee said, “No one cares about the health and well-being of a child more than a parent. I am signing an executive order today that allows parents to opt their children out of a school mask mandate if either a school board or health board enacts one over a district. Districts will make the decision they believe are best for their schools, but parents will have the ultimate decision-making for their individual child’s health and well-being. I will not be calling a special session at this time.”
There are currently three county school systems in Tennessee that are requiring masks in its schools: Shelby, Davidson and Hancock.
He began his announcement by stating that the state is facing a significant challenge in hospitals as a result of the increase in cases and spoke on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine. “The most important tool we have to fight the pandemic is a vaccine. I encourage Tennesseans who have not been vaccinated to talk to their doctor to consider getting vaccinated and to make an informed decision. I worked with my doctor and received the vaccine and it has been a dependable tool to keep me healthy,” Lee said.
Gov. Lee acknowledged the difficulty that hospitals across the state are struggling with, but adds, “…those hospital beds are filled with adults. Requiring parents to make their children wear masks to solve an adult problem is in my view the wrong approach.”
He added that Tennessee will not be mandating or requiring anyone to get a vaccine.
The state reports a rise in COVID-19 vaccinations in the state, as 109,106 vaccinations were given out since Aug. 8. That brings the total vaccinations reported in the state to over 5.8 million statewide. Lee said, “More and more Tennesseans are choosing to be vaccinated, almost 100,000 per week and this is good news for the health of our state.”