Gov. Bill Lee Photo by AP

By Katelynn White

NASHVILLE, TN — The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention has revised mask mandate for not only unvaccinated but also for vaccinated.

“To reduce the risk of being infected with the Delta variant and possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission,” according to a statement released by the Center.

According to the CDC website, the new mask mandate guidelines took effect were July 27. The public health agency believes choosing to wear a mask regardless of transmission levels is helpful for fully vaccinated people who suffer from underlying health conditions.

“You might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission if you have a weakened immune system or if, because of your age or an underlying medical condition, you are at increased risk for severe disease, or if a member of your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated,” the CDC said.

Despite the CDC revising their mask mandate, Gov. Bill Lee made it clear that he is against restrictions or coercing the public, but he is for Covid vaccinations as he said during a news conference last week at the state capitol.

“I don’t have any plans to return to restrictions, but I do have plans to continue to encourage Tennesseans to get vaccinated. As I said for governments, our role is not to coerce or require or mandate” Lee said.

During the conference, he acknowledged that the virus may be here to stay. “We’ve seen an increase across the country because of the Delta variant and therefore we’ll continue to monitor that. We do know that COVID is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. We hope that eventually is not a challenge.”

Although he mentions an increase in cases due to the Delta variant, he briefly voiced his discouragement when it comes to children and mask mandates. Lee said, “The likelihood for children to get seriously ill is low. That’s one of the reasons I think that school districts have made the decision not to require a mask. I don’t think they should, I hope they don’t require masks for children. That is a district decision and I expect most districts won’t require a mask and yes, I support that.” He stands strong in his belief that “The most effective tool we have for COVID is the vaccine.”

According to the governor’s office website, Lee signed Executive Order 80 in the spring to address economic and regulatory functions.

“COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue in Tennessee and no longer a statewide public health emergency. As Tennesseans continue to get vaccinated, it’s time to lift remaining local restrictions, focus on economic recovery and get back to business in Tennessee,” said Lee.

Gov. Lee has requested counties with independent health departments – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – that have remaining business restrictions or mask requirements to lift all measures by May 30.

EO 80 maintains Tennessee’s access to federal funding, including SNAP benefits and cost reimbursements for the Tennessee National Guard’s testing and vaccination efforts.