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Gov. Bill Lee Limits Some Indoor Gatherings And Pleads With Tennesseans To Wear A Mask


In a rare statewide address Sunday night, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee escalated his pleas for Tennesseans to follow COVID-19 guidelines to slow the spread of the virus. It’s now spreading faster and killing more people each day than the state has previously experienced.

Lee also issued a new executive order to restrict some — but not all — indoor public gatherings to 10 people and to limit spectators at indoor youth sporting events.

The governor is urging companies to allow employees to work from home, and he issued a particular plea for people to only spend time with members of their household for the next month.

“Tennesseans have two weapons that they must use in the next 30 days: Only gather with your household and wear a mask,” Lee said.

But those urgings are not mandates. And while Lee said everyone should wear a mask and commended counties that have issued mask mandates, he declined to issue one himself.

The executive order to limit gatherings is Lee’s first major public policy change in recent months. It does the following:

  • Encourage remote work-from-home whenever possible.
  • Restrict indoor public gatherings to fewer than 10 people — with many exceptions. The rule does allow multiple groups up to 10 to occupy a single place or venue as long as each group is distanced from others. And it does not apply to worship services, weddings or funerals, nor does it mention private household gatherings.
  • Ban spectators from youth athletic events, although a range of administrators, coaches, parents, media and athletic scouts are allowed.

The rules apply starting Monday until Jan. 19.
Lee addressed widespread calls for a mask mandate by questioning whether such a move would encourage more people to wear them.

“Many think a statewide mandate would improve mask wearing, many think it would have the
opposite effect,” Lee said. But he added: “Masks work, and I want every Tennessean to wear one.”


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