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Gov. Lee urges students and families choose to wear masks in school, but no mandate issued

Gov. Lee said families should send children to school with masks in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but he did not require it.

TENNESSEE, USA — Governor Bill Lee hosted a press conference on Wednesday where he discussed the state's response to flooding in Humphrey County as well as the continued surge of COVID-19 cases across Tennessee.

During the conference, Gov. Lee urged families to "make informed decisions" to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. He said that could include sending children to school in masks, especially if they are under 12 years old and could not get the vaccine.

"Every parent can have their children wear a mask as a tool to mitigate the spread and to make sure your kids are in school more days than not," he said. "We want to provide information to you so parents can make an informed decision, so the citizenry can make informed decisions about the tools we have."

However, he did not institute a mask mandate. Earlier, he also issued an executive order allowing parents to opt their children out of mask mandates implemented by school boards.

Gov. Lee also said people who get sick with COVID-19 may have the option to undergo a monoclonal antibody treatment, which works to boost their immune response early in the infection. For many people, it can help them recover from the coronavirus and stay out of the emergency room.

"After you get a positive test, your first call should be for a monoclonal antibody infusion," she said.

During the conference, Lee also commended Meigs County on having the highest vaccination rate in the state at around 60% of its population having received at least one dose.

Dr. Lisa Piercy, the state's health commissioner, also said that there has been a significant increase in the number of young people getting vaccinated for COVID-19. She emphasized that it is the most effective tool for preventing hospitalizations.

She went on to say that most of the people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 were not vaccinated. She said half of all ICU beds across the state were being used by COVID-19 patients, discussing the impact that the surge in cases has had on hospitals.

"The biggest increase in kids is in the 5 through 13-year-old children," Piercy said. "So we need to go back and really think about the things that worked before we had vaccines."

She said those included washing hands, practicing social distancing and wearing masks.