MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee addressed the media for the first time in more than three weeks, urging Tennesseans to follow COVID safety protocols, but still stopping short of mandating restrictions.
Tennessee is the only state in the Mid-South that has not employed a state-wide mask mandate. Some Mid-South leaders believe Lee should start one now, and they think it is only a matter of time before the virus gets so bad, he is forced to act.
“We are in fact in a period of time where our case rate are growing across Tennessee,” Lee said.
Some Mid-South elected officials have begun pushing Lee for a state-wide mask mandate, but his health department is taking a “localized” approach, leaving COVID policies up to city and county officials.
“I think every mayor ought to look at the case counts, look at the growth of hospitalizations that are coming from their individual community, they certainly ought to be considering it,” Lee said.
Dr. Jeff Warren of Regional One Hospital said the worst case scenario is overwhelming hospitals and increased deaths. He said once that happens, people start dying. Warren said he believes the governor will eventually make it a mandate.
“I think what’s gonna happen is eventually, our Governor is gonna say, I’m gonna give you some cover,” Warren said. “Those of you who know you need to wear a mask, but socially you’re afraid to do it because you’re not supporting your political party, I’m gonna say, wear your mask, it’s a state mandate.”
Regardless of Lee’s actions, Shelby County will continue to set its own restrictions and guidelines. And until there’s a vaccine, residents shouldn’t expect an elimination of restrictions or the mask mandate any time soon.