Health and education leaders call on Gov. Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate

Tipton County teacher joins call for statewide mask mandate

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As the COVID-19 cases rise in the state of Tennessee, health and education leaders are coming together to ask Governor Bill Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate.

“It’s crazy to think that we’re going back to in-person classes without a mask mandate with cases going up like this,” Katheryn Vaughn said.

Vaughn is a Tipton County teacher at Brighton Elementary.

Wednesday she participated in a virtual conference call with Dr. Amy Gordon Bono asking Governor Bill Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate in Tennessee.

“Masks keep workplaces safe, safe workplaces can have healthier workers and more productive workers,” Bono said.

Both Bono and Vaughn called out Governor Lee and said he’s failed to coordinate a statewide plan.

“We need leadership from Governor Lee. I show up every day for my students, Lee needs to show up for me and for teachers like me across the state,” Vaughn said.

Online the school district states, “Tipton County Schools' mask mandate will remain in effect through October 9th. When students return to school October 19th following Fall Break, we will highly recommend and continue encouraging the use of facial coverings.”

Vaughn says she’s worried about returning to school after the fall break because she feels many will choose to not wear a mask.

Vaughn says even when masks were required, many failed to follow the rules.

“Many teachers and students were only wearing their masks in the hallway or on buses, and teachers were allowing children to take masks off for mask breaks inside their sometimes poorly ventilated classrooms,” Vaughn said.

In response to Vaughn’s statement, the district says, “Students and teachers/staff were allowed periods of mask breaks when social distancing was possible. Any concerns regarding the use of masks and building ventilation referenced by Mrs. Vaughn will be discussed with her and her principal and addressed as appropriate.”

We also reached out to Governor Lee’s office about this plea for change, his office shared the following statement.

“The governor has strongly encouraged Tennesseans to make responsible decisions to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, including wearing masks in public, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when sick. He also believes that statewide, one-size-fits-all government mandates are not the best way to achieve compliance, and that local leaders know the needs of their communities best.”

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