NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Governor Bill Lee is facing controversy after he appeared in photos with elementary-aged children in Perry County, without wearing a mask. All of the children pictured were not old enough to get the vaccine.
NewsChannel 5 asked Governor Lee about the photos and if he should have been wearing a mask.
"So I’m vaccinated, and I’m going to act like that. And if you’re asking whether I was concerned about those kids, we actually went to a rural distressed county, I washed the feet of elementary children, removed their socks and their old shoes," said Gov. Lee during a news conference.
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He went on to say, "I care deeply about those kids which is why we were there."
The Governor and First Lady were in Perry County as a part of an initiative with Samaritan's Feet, providing new socks and shoes to area children.
Even though the Governor is vaccinated, there is still a chance he could transmit COVID-19 to others, as there have been many documented cases of break-through cases. The state's top health official, Dr. Lisa Piercey, confirmed that it is a very real possibility when asked about it in the news conference.
"Vaccinated people can transmit the disease, particularly in the first couple of days of illness if they have the illness. We do know that vaccinated people, their viral load goes down quicker, so they typically don’t spread it as much but the answer to your question is yes," said Dr. Piercey.
Meanwhile, the state's hospital capacity crisis continues. Dr. Piercey told reporters, seven out of the state's eight healthcare coalition regions are using their surge plans, meaning ICU space is nearly full. Piercey added, 55% of all ICU space in Tennessee is filled by critical COVID patients, not leaving much room for other medical emergencies.
"About 95% of patients in the ICU and almost 100% of patients on ventilators are unvaccinated. We know that our vaccines are very safe and very effective, particularly against severe disease," said Dr. Piercey.