Tenn. governor enacts COVID restrictions on social gatherings, forgoes mask mandate

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Tennessee‘s Republican governor on Sunday announced new restrictions on social gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but stopped short of a mask mandate.


Instead, Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order limiting public gatherings to 10 people. Places of worship, weddings and funerals, however, are exempt.

“We are in a cold, cruel phase of this pandemic,” Lee said in a public address. “It will get worse before it gets better. I know you are tired. But we have got to double down.”

Lee’s executive order does not require masks, despite pleas from frontline health care workers experiencing the highest new cases per capita in the country.


Lee called the state “ground zero” in the COVID-19 battle and urged Tennesseans not to gather with people outside their immediate households during the holidays. His message comes just a day after Lee confirmed that his wife, Maria, had tested positive for COVID-19.

He tested negative, but will remain in quarantine at the governor’s residence.

Tennessee is one of a dozen states without a mask mandate. Instead, local counties have the option of implementing their own  restrictions.

Lee originally was scheduled to take reporter questions after his statewide address, but his office later postponed that until Monday without explanation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.