Gov. Bill Lee at a Sept. 2 press conference. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Gov. Bill Lee, hamstrung by three federal court rulings, said Thursday he is extending an executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of school district mask requirements.
“I’ve been incredibly disappointed by rulings from the federal judges who’ve chosen to legislate from the bench,” Lee said Thursday after an event at Stewart Builder Supply in Dickson where the company celebrated its 100th year.
Federal judges in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis ruled against the governor’s order in three separate cases, finding in part that disabled children should be able to attend school without the fear of catching COVID-19.
The Republican governor said he has “full support” from Attorney General Herbert Slatery to defend the law he put into place through an executive order a month ago allowing parents to make decisions on whether their children wear masks in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lee said he is extending the order for another 30 days because he continues to believe parents should decide health and welfare matters for children.
Yet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control published a study showing Tennessee leads the nation in school closings caused by the pandemic.
Districts in several red counties such as Sumner and Wilson shut down schools because of the large numbers of children who tested positive or were quarantined.
Lee said he is “encouraged” by figures showing COVID case numbers for adults and children are decreasing.
Tennessee Department of Health figures show the state saw 4,118 more COVID-19 cases Thursday from the previous day, for a total of 1.22 million and 50 more deaths for a total of 15,149. Hospitalizations dropped off by 54, down to a total of 15,149.
The governor continued to say he believes vaccination is the best way to bring an end to the pandemic and the Delta variant surge.
Yet he remains opposed to President Joe Biden’s plan to order companies with more than 100 workers to require vaccination for all employees.
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