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Tennessee doctors ask governor to reconsider mask opt-out

August 21, 2021 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee doctors presented Gov. Bill Lee on Friday with a petition from 5,400 medical professionals urging him to drop an executive order letting parents opt their children out of school mask requirements.

The doctors cited an alarming rise in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations among teens and younger children, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported. Several Tennessee school districts have imposed mask mandates as the delta variant has caused case numbers not seen since the winter peak of the pandemic. Lee’s executive order overrides those mandates.

“We urge Gov. Lee and our elected leaders to listen to the health care professionals of Tennessee,” Dr. Erica Kaye said during a videoconference announcing the petition. “An executive order that allows parents to opt out of masks threatens the public health of entire communities and our state at large.” Kaye, a Memphis physician, penned the open letter that was widely supported in the medical community.

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The petition from doctors comes two days after President Joe Biden directed U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to weigh legal action against six Republican governors, including Lee.

“We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” the president said during a White House news conference.

Lee’s only public response was a social media post saying, “Parents know better than the government what’s best for their children.”