Tennessee is ranked fourth in the nation for COVID deaths per 100,000 people, WUOT reports, citing the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s red zone report, which calls for Gov. Bill Lee to implement a statewide mask mandate.
The controversial report is from earlier this month. The task force issues frequent red zone reports.
Governor Bill Lee has not responded to The Center for Public Integrity’s requests for the reports, WUOT said.
However, one must ask, is this call for a mandate coming from the highest levels of the administration or from bureaucrats?
One prominent task force member has been a vocal cheerleader for masks.
Dr. Deborah Birx has shot to fame during her work with the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Birx has worked for at least three decades in HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health, and she is an ambassador-at-large in addition to her newer role on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, according to her State Department biography.
Birx has mentioned the reports in her private calls with local and state leaders, and she has touted the need to use the data from the reports, The Center for Public Integrity has said.
At least as early as July, Birx was calling for local mayors across Tennessee to force their citizens into masks, Fox 17 News said. Birx traveled to Tennessee to meet with Lee.
She also called for statewide mask mandates in Tennessee, plus other states in the South as well as the Midwest, in July, The Hill reported.
Birx consults with state leaders across the nation.
North Carolina, which has some of the lowest coronavirus case counts in the Southeast, is on the task force’s red zone as well, the Mountain Xpress said. The state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen said she and Gov. Roy Cooper had met with Birx on Sept. 9.
“Our progress is fragile and is not as good as we, Dr. Birx or the White House would like,” Cohen noted. “North Carolina continues to simmer. Although we haven’t boiled over, some areas have plateaued at a high rate.”
Birx in September called for Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to extend her statewide mask mandate, AL.com reported.
Lee’s office on Friday said in a statement he still does not plan to implement a statewide mask mandate, The Associated Press reported.
“The governor’s view has not changed based upon non-binding recommendations from the federal government. Previous White House reports dating back to the summer have included similar recommendations, so the inclusion here is not novel.”
Although he has refused to issue a statewide mandate, Lee has often said he thinks people should wear masks, and he has issued executive orders leaving mandates up to local mayors.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes. The Associated Press contributed to this report.