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GOV. LEE’S HYPOCRISY RISKS OUR CHILDREN’S HEALTH AND EDUCATION: Executive Order 84 Poses a Direct Threat to Public Health, Classroom-Based Learning and Local Economies

Aug. 16, 2021 – PRESS RELEASE – Today, state Representative John Ray Clemmons (District 55–Nashville) responded to Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order No. 84 that allows any parent or guardian to opt their child out of any facial covering requirement in our schools. 

Lee issued his Executive Order only hours after Dr. Lisa Piercey, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, announced that our state has already seen more COVID-related hospitalizations in the first half of August than in any other full month during the pandemic. Dr. Piercey also confirmed that, as of today, the Tennessee National Guard is now being used to supplement staffing in hospitals. 

In response, Rep. Clemmons issued the following statement: 

Gov. Bill Lee has opted to kowtow to individuals like those who threaten health care workers rather than listen to medical experts. Today’s Executive Order not only reflects a complete reversal of the governor’s complete deference to local officials throughout this pandemic, but it also poses a direct threat to our children’s health and education, as well as this state’s economy. Though children are, on average, more resistant to the effects of coronavirus, there is currently an alarming rise in pediatric cases. Additionally, our state is rapidly approaching its one millionth case of COVID-19, and almost 13,000 of our fellow Tennesseans have died. 

The governor’s executive order is contrary to our mutual goals. We all want our children to be safe and healthy and benefit from a high quality public education, and we agree that the most effective and equitable learning opportunity is in a classroom setting. Therefore, we should all be focused on how best to overcome any obstacles preventing us from accomplishing these mutual aims. One such way is to allow local officials to require a non-invasive and effective option readily available to every child – a facial covering.

By allowing parents to opt out for any reason and eliminating the universal applicability of any such requirement, Gov. Lee is undermining the very purpose of a requirement and reducing the proven effectiveness of facial coverings. In so doing, he is purposefully jeopardizing our children’s health and their education, as well as our economy. For what? 

I applaud all school officials who instituted universal facial coverings requirements in the face of threats of politicians, and I invite everyone to keep up the fight for our children and continue working to protect our fellow Tennesseans.  



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