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TN Gov. Lee says mask, vaccines shouldn't be required for school children

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says that masks and COVID-19 vaccines shouldn't be required for school children.

Lee's comments during a media briefing Monday are drawing some criticism from medical professionals who have been outspoken again the governor throughout the pandemic.

In Tennessee, school districts make individual decisions about policies within their districts. But as face covering guidance continues to be eased by federal officials amid vaccine rollout, schools are now facing their own decisions.

Mandating masks is something that Gov. Lee says he doesn't want to happen.

“Following the science shows that children have been very low risk for contracting COVID and from actually being sick as a result of it, so I’m hopeful that schools will make the decision to not require masks,” Lee said.

Metro Nashville Public Schools announced last week that masks will still be required next year.

His comment has garnered criticism from the group "Protect My Care."

“Mask requirements for our classrooms keep COVID out so our kids can stay in school, parents at work and most importantly, protect vulnerable children who do not have the option to get vaccinated yet,” said Dr. Amy Gordon Bono, an internal medicine/primary care physician in Nashville, who also holds a Masters in Public Health. “And we know it works: counties without mask requirements have seen more COVID spread, leading to more kids getting sick, parents and kids having to quarantine, making it harder on local businesses and families.”

Right now, Tennessee children are required to get certain vaccines to return to school. But when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, Lee says he doesn't see that becoming a requirement.

“I don’t expect that we’ll have requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine, in part because it has been authorized only under emergency use, so I would not advocate for it and don’t expect that we’ll have vaccine requirements for children," Lee said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bono says we should be doing 'everything possible' to keep infection rates down.

“Masks and vaccines work together to help suppress COVID infections in our community,” continued Dr. Bono. “Doing everything we can to keep the school environment safe from COVID infection helps make that environment safer, more supportive, and more stable for our children, teachers, and staff. Masks for unvaccinated individuals, including children, are essential.”

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