Nashville And Memphis Prevented From Mandating Masks

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

Leaders in Nashville and Memphis are once again eager to mandate masks for their cities, despite waning numbers of cases, but Governor Bill Lee says that a new emergency declaration is not needed.

Last year, Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation that created specific criteria under which county governments could require masks: 1,000 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days and the governor must declare a state of emergency. This law was originally applied to schools too but some counties are requiring masks for all students and staff while lawsuits work their way through the courts.

This infection threshold was considered to be high when the Tennessee General Assembly was hashing out the details of the new law during the last special session; most Tennessee counties only reached these numbers during the very highest peaks of prior surges. The omicron variant has proven itself to be a more transmissible strain and as of January 15th, all 95 Tennessee counties have exceeded the threshold, according to data released by the health department on Wednesday.

“An emergency declaration is a tool we should use only when we have to,” said Governor Lee on January 4th. “There are a lot of things that go into the calculation for when you should do that, the first and foremost would be the number of people that are in the hospital.”

As of Monday, about 2,900 people were in Tennessee hospitals with the virus. Three fourths of the number hospitalized during the delta peak. Casey Black, spokesperson for the Governor, said Tuesday that Lee, “regularly monitors hospital capacity.” 

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Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said that the hospitalization levels in the state, while serious, are not as severe as they appear. Of the total number of coronavirus patients, 30 – 50% are “incidental” meaning they were admitted for other reasons and later tested positive.

Piercey addressed lawmakers on Wednesday with good news on this front. Infections are flattening or declining in metropolitan areas, a sign the omicron wave is “starting to plateau.” Rates of infection were falling in Nashville and Memphis last week and the Chattanooga area has seen a few days of flat numbers. More rural areas are expected to follow suit in the near future.


Piercey is not alone in her assessment. Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt University Medical Center spoke with Fox 17 News on Tuesday saying that he is “cautiously optimistic” the current omicron wave could transition from being pandemic to endemic by the middle of next month.

Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Cameron Sexton, speaking to News Channel 11 on Wednesday said that despite school systems having challenges with student and teacher absences due to the virus, that he believes the work done by lawmakers last year to limit mask mandates was the right course of action.

“You can’t just look at the number of people who have tested positive. This variant appears to be very mild.”


About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at

One thought on “Nashville And Memphis Prevented From Mandating Masks

  • January 21, 2022 at 10:47 pm

    These masks mandates are a JOKE!!! They will NOT work against any virus unless they are medical grade that seal around the whole face like in a hospital setting. It is Science not a power grab??


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