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Gov. Lee hasn't changed opinion on Tennessee mask mandate; 21 counties have issued local orders

Federal experts said Tennessee needs a statewide mask mandate to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19

Despite a recommendation for a statewide mask mandate in Tennessee from a team of federal public health representatives, Gov. Bill Lee has not changed his opinion.

After Knox Co. was named a COVID-19 hotspot, representatives from the CDC, FEMA and Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response visited with the Knox Co. Health Dept. to see what could be done differently.

Among their recommendations was a statewide mask mandate, more consistent messaging about the importance of wearing a mask, and having celebrities like Dolly Parton spread the word.

We reached out to Gov. Bill Lee's office to get his reaction to the recommendation. Press Secretary Gillum Ferguson said the governor's position had not changed and referred us to a previous quote from Lee on the subject.

"I think a targeted approach is the best way to do this. There are places in our state that have significant spread and then there are places in our state that don't. A one-size-fits-all approach to this, in our view, is not the best approach. ... We believe that that buy-in is more important and sometimes mandates can actually be counterproductive to buy-in, so that's why we think targeted approaches are the best," he said.

RELATED: Federal report: Tennessee needs mask mandate, should enlist Dolly Parton to help

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Gov. Bill Lee did give authority to county mayors to issue county-wide mask requirements on July 3. Knox County and Sevier County were among the 21 counties to use that authority.

Ferguson said those mask mandates cover 64 percent of the population of Tennessee.

As for Dolly, Dollywood spokesperson Pete Owens said Dolly has been advocating for mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing since the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton holding a mask in the video for her song "When Life is Good Again."

She can be seen wearing then removing her mask in the video of her new song, "When Life is Good Again." The video ends with a message from Dolly reading, "Be safe, be respectful, wear your mask, lead with love.”