Monday, December 21, 2020

Lawmakers Urge Lee for Mask Mandate

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 3:33 PM

Clockwise from top left Rep. London Lamar, Rep. Vincent Dixie, Senator Brenda Gilmore, and Rep. Yusuf Hakeem. - TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
  • Tennessee General Assembly
  • Clockwise from top left Rep. London Lamar, Rep. Vincent Dixie, Senator Brenda Gilmore, and Rep. Yusuf Hakeem.
click to enlarge Governor Bill Lee
  • Governor Bill Lee

A group of Democratic Tennessee lawmakers urged Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to issue a mask mandate immediately.

Lee announced Sunday that new social gathering restrictions would be put in place for the state of Tennessee. He signed an executive order limiting public gatherings to 10 people. However, places of worship, weddings, some sporting events, and funerals are exempt from the order.

Lee has still not implemented a mask mandate despite pleas from healthcare workers and local lawmakers. Though Tennessee is a hotspot for virus growth, Lee has refused to order a mask mandate and refused again on Sunday, calling such mandates a "heavily politicized issue."

In a virtual news conference Monday, Tennessee state Senator Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) spoke about how COVID-19 has hit Black and brown communities hardest. 

click to enlarge Gilmore
  • Gilmore

"COVID-19 doesn't discriminate but institutionalized bias toward Black and brown people is causing a high rate for African Americans and Latinos, not only in Tennessee but across this country," she said. "It's ravaging people of color. Approximately 60 percent of the people who have died are African Americans and Latinas. It doesn't mean that we're more susceptible to get this virus. It just means that when we're infected, we are most likely to die from it."

State Rep. London Lamar (D- Memphis) said, ”[Lee] made this a political issue when he decided not to implement a mask mandate and further our ability to kill more Tennesseans by not putting in his mandate and forcing us to protect one another. 

click to enlarge Lamar
  • Lamar

On the executive order, Lamar stated, “that's not enough, we wouldn't have to do that if we would have implemented a mass mandate, a long time ago,” she went on to say that she is tired of going to funerals during the holidays.

“I've never been in the shoes of our governor, Governor Lee," said State Rep. Yussuf Hakim (D-Chattanooga), “but I believe it's been laid out clearly that there's great harm being done to the average citizen in the state of Tennessee. When you talk about us being the worst in the world, that means to me that you have to take exceptional actions to mitigate such circumstances."

click to enlarge Hakim
  • Hakim

Legislators on the call said that the Tennessee economy would not have been threatened if Lee had acted sooner.

”It is our fault that the Tennessee economy is suffering?" Lamar said. "Because businesses wouldn't have to limit operations businesses and could still be functioning the way they're functioning in other states if we implement simple tactics like mask mandates,” said Lamar. “We are killing our own economy, because we are not acting with leadership and courage and responsibility. We have over $1 billion in a fund that would be could be used to help families during this difficult time."

They cited several republican politicians who also supported stronger measures to protect Tennesseans, like Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, and former U.S. Senator Bill Frist.

click to enlarge Dixie
  • Dixie

“Let's take the power; let’s lead by example,” said state Rep. Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville). “I would like for us to increase testing even though we have a vaccine. I think the approach that Governor Lee seems to be taking is the survival of the fittest."

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