Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) is the latest state leader to urge residents to drastically limit their holiday gatherings by spending them only with members of the same household, signing an executive order limiting indoor public events to ten.
In a Sunday evening address, the Republican governor identified Tennesee as “ground zero for a surge in sickness,” describing the ongoing pandemic as a “war.” Approximately 10,000 Tennesseans are getting sick daily, the governor said, largely attributing the spike to holiday gatherings — namely, the Thanksgiving gatherings.
“We have seen firsthand that Thanksgiving gatherings and extended time indoors have been the principal driver in spreading COVID-19 like wildfire,” Lee said.
“It only took a matter of days to see gatherings around Thanksgiving translate into a record level of sickness. Tennessee cannot sustain a similar surge after Christmas or New Year’s. Tonight, I am asking you to make some hard decisions,” he continued before formally asking residents to “not engage in indoor gatherings for the holidays that include anyone outside your household.”
“Family time and celebrations are important. I understand deeply how much Tennessee families need each other. But we must do all that we can to blunt this surge and keep more Tennesseans from getting sick,” he said, announcing an order limiting indoor public gatherings to ten:
Lee also emphasized the importance of masks, though he has yet to implement a statewide mask mandate, explaining that it is a “heavily politicized issue” and would likely have a negative effect on compliance.
“Please do not get caught up in that and don’t misunderstand my belief in local government on this issue. Masks work and I want every Tennessean to wear one,” he added, identifying the “two weapons” Tennesseans have to fight the virus over the next month: “Only gather with your household and wear a mask.”
Similarly, last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans nationwide not to spend Christmas with their families because of the risks associated with spreading the Wuhan virus.
“This cannot be business as usual this Christmas because we’re already in a very difficult situation, and we’re going to make it worse, if we don’t do something about it,” Fauci told the Washington Post.
The Tennessee Department of Health reported 16,036 new cases of the virus over the weekend.