NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When the state legislature passed the omnibus COVID legislation, it all but banned schools and government agencies from enacting mask mandates except in what it called "severe conditions."
For the first time in the Omicron surge, Davidson County now meets one of the metrics for severe COVID conditions, with 1,126 new COVID cases over the last 14 days per 100 thousand people, according to data derived from the Tennessee Department of Health.
The legislation Governor Lee signed into law requires that number to be just 1,000 — a figure reached only couple other times during the entire COVID pandemic.
But the trigger for allowing mask mandates also requires a state of emergency declaration from the Governor.
Lee himself said last month "Should our state face any future surges, we will consider temporarily reinstating this tool," referring to a state of emergency. But his office has given no indication if he will enact another one.
State Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) says its precisely in COVID surges like this one where local governments and school boards need local control to bring in mask mandates if they think it's necessary.
"As opposed to having the legislature swoop in and make some judgment that's going to last through different strains of this virus that no one saw coming at the time," Yarbro said.
A federal judge has blocked the legislature's bill from going into effect for now, a decision criticized by state Republicans, but applauded by many Democrats.