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Tennessee House Speaker asks Gov. Lee for special session in attempt to block school mask mandates

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Posted at 3:46 PM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 18:22:02-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF)  — Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has asked Gov. Bill Lee to call a special session in an attempt to block school districts from implementing mask mandates -- even as pediatric COVID-19 cases surge across the state.

Last week, Sexton threatened that he would ask the governor to call a special session if school districts opt to require masks or close amid the spread of the delta variant. So far, school districts in six counties have announced plans to implement masks: Davidson, Williamson, Shelby, Hamilton and Henry counties.

Lee signed an executive order on Friday, reinstating regulatory flexibilities for Tennessee hospitals that are responding to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the governor's office wouldn't answer whether or not Lee would call the session. However, they did state his position that he believes parents should make mask decisions and not the school system.

The governor's office said on Wednesday the request is under review.

In his letter to the governor, Sexton called for the session to "address misdirected and mandated responses to COVID-19 by local entities and officials."

Click here to read the letter

COVID IN TENNESSEE

In recent weeks, Tennessee has seen a sharp uptick of new COVID-19 cases — the vast majority of which are among the unvaccinated.

Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said Friday during her update that more than 93% of all active cases, 95% of new deaths and 90% of current hospitalizations are unvaccinated individuals.

Piercey also said that pediatric cases are "quickly on the rise," nearly doubling from the week of July 18 to July 25. She said for the week of July 18, the state reported 1,800 cases in children. The next week, that jumped to 3,200 cases.

Just in the last week, Tennessee saw a 204% increase in new cases. The seven-day average of daily new cases is 1,871 and the state is seeing a 13% positivity rate of COVID-19 tests.

Piercey said like the rest of the United States, Tennessee's new cases are mostly the delta variant, at more than 80%.

However, the vaccine uptake statewide is up 22% from the week prior, and 94 out of the state's 95 counties recorded an increase in new vaccinations.