Mask opt-outs ‘putting all of our children in harm’s way,’ member of Gov. Lee’s COVID task force says

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A special session may be back on the table after some Tennessee school districts are defying Governor Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt their child out of any mask mandates.

Lawmakers and Governor Lee wanted to use the executive order in lieu of a special session to ban mask mandates for schools.

Lee received pushback after giving the green light to make masks optional for students in Tennessee.

“In the last several weeks we have seen a very worrisome change, the delta variant is the predominant strain infecting Americans today,” said Dr. Sara Cross, Infectious Disease Physician from Memphis.

The order comes despite the Delta variant causing a sharp rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases.

“It is much more infectious and appears to cause more severe disease, unfortunately, it is also affecting children at alarming rates,” Cross said.

Dr. Cross is also a member of Lee’s Coronavirus task force and is speaking out against the recent steps from the governor, “Children under 12 are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine yet, they are defenseless.”

Senator Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) said the governor’s executive order will lead to needless illnesses and deaths. “This is going to be a nightmare when it comes to how many of our children are going to get sick because we are not showing good decisive leadership on this.”

Republicans say the districts, including Shelby and Metro Nashville schools, who continue to disobey the governor’s order will face consequences.

“We expect all the school districts to follow the laws and follow what we put in place — if they don’t agree with them there’s the right recourse to follow,” Sen. Mark Pody said.

But Dr. Cross says masks work and should stay to keep kids in schools. “I fear for my 6-year-old daughter and for all children what will happen if masks are no longer worn in schools, opting out of wearing masks is putting all of our children in harm’s way, it is tragic that we can’t be united in the fight against Covid.”

News 2 reached out to Lt. Governor Randy Mcnally’s office to clarify if he would now want a special session because the few districts in the state disobeying the Governor’s order and have not heard back.

Lee’s office also did not return a request for comment on the districts disobeying his executive order.

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