Shelby County files lawsuit against Gov. Bill Lee over opt-out order

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FILE – In this July 1, 2020, file photo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee removes his mask as he begins a news conference in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee was one of the first states to begin reopening in late April after Lee reluctantly issued a safer-at-home order that forced businesses to close. Since then, case numbers have continued to rise in part due to more testing, but also because of an increase in community spread of the disease. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Shelby County has filed a lawsuit against Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee over the recent executive order that allows parents to opt their children out of mask mandates.

The suit was filed late Thursday afternoon.

The suit alleges both that Lee and Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey have stated that masks are “the best tool available to protect unvaccinated students from COVID-19” , but Lee’s executive order prevents the Shelby County Health Department from being able to enforce mask mandates.

“Other children who share hallways, classrooms, buses and school facilities with those opted-out students must consequently face a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19,” the suit says.

The executive issue has sparked backlash from across the state. A group of Tennessee healthcare professionals signed an open letter opposing the order. A group of pastors from the across the state condemned the order and said they will continue to demand that Lee reverse it.

Parents from school districts in Shelby County have protested the order.

Soon after Lee issued the order, Shelby County Schools superintendent Dr. Joris Ray announced that masks will still be required for all employees, students and visitors in SCS buildings.

Shelby County is currently reporting 119,942 cases with 1,834 deaths. Tennessee is currently reporting more than 1 million cases with 10,731 deaths. Wednesday, Tennessee health officials said children make up 36 percent of the state’s reported COVID-19 cases.

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