Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) announced in a five-minute address Sunday evening that the state will ban indoor public gatherings of more than 10 people in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m signing an order that will limit indoor public gatherings to 10 people,” Lee said in a televised message to Tennesseans.
“We now have around 10,000 Tennesseans getting sick every day,” he said, adding that Tennessee was “ground zero” for the COVID-19 pandemic, and that cases have surged in the state since Thanksgiving.
He also asked Tennessee residents to abstain from large gatherings at Christmas.
“So tonight, I’m asking you to make some hard decisions,” Lee said. “I’m asking you to not engage in indoor gatherings for the holidays that include anyone outside your household.”
He also announced that the state will limit attendance at indoor sporting events, and implored business owners to let employees work from home for the next month.
Tennessee is one of the few remaining states in America that has not implemented a statewide mask mandate or mandatory stay-at-home orders. Until Sunday, it had not limited indoor gatherings.
But during his evening remarks, Lee lauded local governments that had implemented mask mandates, and encouraged residents to wear them.
“Masks work, and I want every Tennessean to wear one,” he said.
Watch the full address:
Lee has apparently been wavering in his position about mask mandates for months.
The governor was overhead regretfully saying that he had not implemented a mask mandate in a video recorded by local television station WJHL.
“I said to someone the other day, gosh, if we had the hindsight of 2020 and we’d done a mask requirement at the beginning of March, we probably wouldn’t have had to close everything down,” he said in the video filmed in July at a COVID-19 testing center in Johnson City.
Meanwhile, Tennessee residents and advocacy groups spent their weekend fighting for individual liberty.
The nonprofit group Tennessee Stands held a rally Saturday urging the Knox County Commission to strip the Knox County Board of Health of its mandate powers, and return the Board of Health strictly to an advisory role, as reported by The Tennessee Star.
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles spoke at the Tennessee Stands rally Saturday.
The Star spoke to Ogles after Lee’s Sunday evening address.
“I am relieved the governor did not do a statewide mask mandate,” he said. “We can’t sacrifice liberty and infringe on the Constitution, even though there’s a virus, and even though people are scared.”
“Yes, the virus is serious,” he said. “But at the end of the day this is about personal responsibility.”
Ogles also encouraged Tennesseans to socially distance.
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