NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Bill Lee told reporters during his COVID-19 press briefing that county mayors should consider implementing a mask mandate as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase throughout the state.
During Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing, health officials urged Tennesseans to "mask up" to protect themselves and those around them.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have recently reached an all-time high. Because of that, several county mayors have already issued a mask mandate including Montgomery, Rutherford, and Williamson County.
The recent COVID-19 spike goes beyond large cities. Case counts and hospitalizations are increasing in rural areas as well.
The governor has been adamant about not issuing a statewide mask mandate, saying the decision should be left to local leaders based on each county's case count and positivity rate - something he maintained when pressed on the issue.
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When asked if he thought he lifted the business restrictions across the state too early he responded by saying the balance between keeping people safe while also keeping people's livelihoods intact was critical. He went on to explain that the community spread isn't being seen in businesses or out in public but rather in small, familiar gatherings.
Rather than issuing a statewide mandate, the governor continued to urge mayors to consider doing so.
"I think that every mayor certainly ought to consider and look at the case counts in their state, look at the growth of hospitalizations coming from their community. They certainly ought to be considering it," Gov. Lee said.
His message is one that he has said before, specifically two weeks ago, but as the state continues to see all-time highs in hospitalizations some are asking if it goes far enough.
A reporter asked, 'At what point do you think personal responsibility, asking people to have a personal stake in this is failing?"
"At the end of the day, personal responsibility is the only way. People will choose or not choose to socially distance, or choose or not choose to wear a mask or to wash their hands. They will make that personal decision," said Gov. Lee. "What we can do is encourage and remind them that personal responsibility can protect them. That will never not change. That will never not be part of the solution."
The state's COVID-19 safety campaign, which the governor consistently refers to, encourages residents to make the choice to wear a mask.
Tennesseans have a choice to make in our fight against COVID-19.— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) October 20, 2020
Choose to live responsibly and choose to wear a mask. #FaceitTN pic.twitter.com/WXMLhmvQtE
Watch Wednesday's full press briefing below: