Aug. 13, 2021 – WKRN by: Gerald Harris – The controversy over mask mandates in schools in Tennessee is making national headlines. Healthcare workers advocating for safety measures to combat COVID-19 in schools faced threatening crowds after the Williamson County School Board voted to require masks for elementary-aged students Tuesday.
Governor Bill Lee refused to address the healthcare workers being harassed and threatened when asked Friday. News 2’s Gerald Harris asked: “Should healthcare workers be threatened while doing their job, Governor?” Gov. Lee did not respond despite the incident in Williamson County catching the attention of President Joe Biden. This comes as Gov. Lee’s administration is quietly trying to stamp out vaccine and COVID-19 misinformation among Republican lawmakers.
The medical workers were advocating for a mask mandate and other mitigation efforts in schools to limit the spread of the virus. “These people are out on the frontlines every single day risking their lives to save your children and to save your families,” Sen. Heidi Campbell, a Davidson County Democrat, said.
But, even as the Governor warns lawmakers against COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories spreading rapidly in Tennessee – he remains publicly silent on the issue. “Governor, do you want to respond to the misinformation by some of your Republican colleagues about the vaccine?” Harris asked with no response from Gov. Lee.
“It’s about time they’re finally starting to correct the record or at least make an attempt to because all it does is mislead people. It leads to the further politicization of the pandemic, and it risks people’s health and well-being,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Nashville Democrat, said.
Members of the Gov. Lee administration attempted to avoid our questions by manufacturing a conversation about broadband until he reached his SUV. Still Governor Lee refused to answer questions concerning the pandemic despite beds running out in some Tennessee hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. “Governor, why aren’t you going to answer these questions when the delta variant is soaring through Tennessee?” Harris asked.
After being repeatedly asked about the COVID-19 misinformation and healthcare workers in Tennessee facing threats the 50th Governor of the state continued to be silent.
“I think it’s important that we do our best to provide accurate information to Tennesseans, so that they can make a best decision for them whether it’s relative to the vaccine or whether it’s relative to a mask,” Sen. Jack Johnson, a Williamson County Republican, said.
Harris also asked if Governor Lee supports the bipartisan infrastructure plan that passed the United States Senate awaiting action in the House. Casey Black, a spokesperson for Governor Lee, responded with a statement saying: “A federal proposal hasn’t passed Congress, but broadband has been a cornerstone of the Governor’s agenda. As you know, broadband was a key highlight in his State of the State address this year, and it is regularly discussed during FSAG meetings. Additionally, the state’s FY21-22 budget included significant investments in rural broadband development.”
Governor Lee was asked these questions following an event in Williamson County announcing a new BrightStone facility that will serve adults with disabilities in Middle Tennessee.