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Tennessee governor signs order allowing parents to opt kids out of mask mandates

bill lee
Posted at 8:03 PM, Aug 16, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order allowing parents to opt kids out of any school mask mandates.

"Right now, some of the greatest frustration is occurring in our K-12 schools, especially around the issue of mask mandates. 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," Lee said. "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."

"Our hospitals are struggling under the weight of COVID but those hospital beds are filled with adults," Lee continued. "Requiring parents to make their children wear masks to solve an adult problem is in my view the wrong approach."

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all students, teachers, and staff wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status.

Democrats say the Republican governor is playing Russian Roulette with Tennessee children by issuing the executive order.

"As we enter a new school year after nearly 18 months of dealing with the COVID-19 virus in our state, it is vital that we do all we can to stifle this new wave and variant of the virus. Our children cannot be vaccinated yet, so masks are our best way to keep our children in school and keep them healthy," said Tennessee House Democratic Leader Karen Camper. "I do not understand how Gov. Lee can undo the decisions of local boards and his own public health professionals and think that this is the right way to handle this new surge. The Commissioner of Health said this vThis story was originally reported by Caroline Sutton and Catlin Bogard on morning that the Tennessee National Guard is being activated to help with our overrun hospitals and asked Tennesseans not to go to their local emergency rooms because they are full. This is not the time to let our guard down and I encourage Tennesseans to get the vaccine, mask up and to take care of one another. We have many miles to go before we have this virus beat and we cannot let up but putting our kids, our teachers and our families at risk but not attacking COVID-19 with all of our resources and efforts."

On Monday, Metro Nashville Public Schools reported that more than 1,000 of its staff and students are either quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19 after school started last week. The district's school board voted to require masks in schools for all staff and students just before the school year began.

This story was originally reported by Caroline Sutton and Catlin Bogard on