Governor extends mask-removal rule despite Tennessee leading US in COVID school closures
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WKRN) – Gov. Bill Lee is extending his controversial mask removal order in 92 of Tennessee’s 95 counties, while fighting federal mask requirements in three of the remaining counties.
The extension comes as new data points to darker details about Tennessee’s return to in-person learning.
Governor Lee said he was disappointed with three federal decisions that his mask removal order is or potentially illegal.
“I have fully supported the attorney general as we defend the law in this state,” Lee said.
Judges in Middle, West and East Tennessee have ruled that the Governor’s Order in Council did not provide protection for children covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But despite the decisions, he adds 30 days to the order.
“We will expand and make a provision for this law,” he said.
Zack Buck, associate professor of law at the University of Tennessee, said, “By extending the rule, it probably now ensures that we will have ongoing and ongoing litigation on the matter. “
The most likely place the trial will continue is the U.S. 6th Circuit of Appeal, to determine whether or not the governor’s order is protected.
“Is it such that due to the governor’s rule children, children with disabilities do not have reasonable accommodation due to the risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19,” Buck said.
Dr Jason Martin, an intensive care physician treating COVID-19 patients and a Democrat to the Governor of Tennessee, said it continued a model of Governor Lee.
“This is just pure politics on Governor Lee’s part, and it puts teachers to the test. It’s drying the students outside, ”said Dr Martin.
The 50th governor’s decision comes with new data released by the CDC detailing school closures due to COVID-19 was the highest in the south with Tennessee leading the way.
“Members of the healthcare and scientific communities have been saying for months that there are simple steps we can take to keep teachers and students safe,” continued Dr. Martin. “First, we need to encourage people to get vaccinated when they are eligible and second, we need to encourage mask wear, especially to protect groups of children who are not yet eligible for vaccinations. “
The Tennessee Attorney General is appealing the decisions of Shelby and Knox counties.