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Biden Wants State Mask Mandates, But Tennessee’s Governor Says That Won’t Work

Blake Farmer

The incoming Biden administration plans to ask governors to require masks in their states. But Tennessee’s Bill Lee says he’s convinced that mayors, not governors, are the right people to make such mandates. 

Reporters have asked the governor repeatedly over the past several months if he plans to mandate masks statewide, especially as coronavirus cases continue to break records in Tennessee.

The governor says he’s convinced masks are effective. He’s reading the Vanderbilt studies about Tennessee, including the most recent released Tuesday showing twice as many deaths in communities without a mask requirement.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a correlation between mask-wearing and lower hospitalizations,” Lee said. “That’s why we need to develop the very best strategy going forward and call upon folks to take personal responsibility in this.”

But he’s also convinced that local officials are more trusted and would get better compliance. And that would still be his opinion, he says, even if the Biden administration applies more pressure than the current White House.

“A mask mandate doesn’t mean mask-wearing,” Lee said Tuesday.

Lee’s office has continued lobbying local mayors and school boards to require masks, and he praises them when they act, including Robertson County’s return to face coverings this week. But more than a third of counties in Tennessee still do have any mask requirements in place, according to the new Vanderbilt study.

Nearly 2,000 new cases were recorded by the state on Tuesday after several record-breaking days over the last week. Hospitalizations also continue to reach new highs, crossing 1,600 statewide. Another 62 deaths were added on Tuesday.



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