Democratic Leaders Slam Gov. Lee’s Mask Opt-Out, Say Lee “Plays Russian Roulette with our Children”

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Lee announced an executive order today that will make all local school district mask rules optional.

The governor called the recent surge in Covid-19 cases an “adult problem.”

But this doesn’t match data produced by his health department<https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov/data/hospitalization-data.html>, which shows that children account for 2% of hospitalizations statewide and coronavirus cases among school-age kids have spiked 950%<https://fox17.com/news/local/tennessee-school-aged-children-with-covid-19-last-14-days-up-950-in-just-over-a-month>.

Sen. Jeff Yarbro, the Senate minority leader, said Gov. Lee’s order “plays politics” with the safety of Tennessee children.

“School systems across Tennessee are already reporting huge Covid-related absences, and the National Guard is activating to help understaffed hospitals dealing with the latest spike,” Yarbro said. “This is no time for the governor to play politics and undermine local school efforts to keep kids safe.”

“It’s pretty tough to swallow that the governor is using the ’emergency powers’ statute to mandate that the emergency response be weaker?” Yarbro tweeted.

House Democratic Leader Karen Camper issued the following statement:

“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.  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 very 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.”

House Caucus Chairman Vincent Dixie issued the following statement:

“This Executive Order goes to show the attitude of Governor Lee and the Republican Party when it comes to our babies’ lives.  He’s willing to play Russian Roulette with our children, basically sending our babies into the lion’s den with no armor.  Today, the Governor offered no solutions or recommendations on how to protect our kids.  When making the announcement, he admits that masks are good in warding off COVID-19 while at the same time saying but we don’t want our kids to wear them.  It’s conflicting statements.  So no wonder that the average Joe is so confused on what to do.  It all boils down to a serious lack of leadership by Governor Lee and the Republicans that puts all of Tennessee at risk.”

State Representative London Lamar described Lee’s executive order regarding masks as “truly frightening.”

“The latest Executive Order issued by Governor Bill Lee is truly frightening for Tennessee’s children, parents, teachers and school support staff.  The announcement that this new order will allow all students across the state to opt out of wearing a mask is just another example of the Republican leadership in this state putting politics over people.  I’m terrified that this decision could increase the rate of COVID-19 in our children, as well as increase in the risk for their families and educators who come into contact with them.  All while our hospital beds fill up, elective procedures are postponed and the National Guard has to be called in to help.  We need common sense leadership instead of Government overreach,” Lamar said.

State Representative Antonio Parkinson issued the following statement:

“How do you say decisions on community health should be made locally and in the very same breath and sentence remove local control in regards to children wearing masks at school? Many children in Shelby County and across the state live in multigenerational households. More and more children are requiring hospitalization when contracting Covid and can easily transmit the virus to parents and other family members whom they may come in contact with. These conditions may prove debilitating or fatal for a child or their family members. I disagree with the executive order and it is irresponsible. This decision is a slap in the face to every parent that wants to jeep their children safe while at school and a slap in the face to healthcare workers and an already strained to healthcare system in our state. The goal is to stop the spread of the virus in Tennessee. This executive order in no way will curb the spread of the virus. As a matter of fact, it may accelerate the spread of Covid in our state.”- State Rep. Antonio Parkinson