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“We’re encouraged” about reopening schools Gov. Lee says as coronavirus cases near 100,000 in state

Governor Bill Lee told media he was "encouraged" by the direction the state was taking as it reopens schools and resumes contacts sports, following the announcement that COVID-19 cases surpassed 99,000 Tuesday.
FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee removes his mask as he begins a news conference July 1, 2020, in...
FILE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee removes his mask as he begins a news conference July 1, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Earlier this week, as Tennessee registered its highest single-day coronavirus case increase, Gov. Lee held a news conference and issued a stern response. It wasn't a mandate to wear masks in public or clamp down on businesses or social gatherings. Instead, it was a plea for residents to do the right thing. “When we have people dying in this state as a result of this virus, we should be taking personal responsibility for this,” the Republican governor said.(Mark Humphrey | AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file)
Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 6:48 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Governor Bill Lee told media he was “encouraged” by the direction the state was taking as it reopens schools and resumes contacts sports, following the announcement that COVID-19 cases surpassed 99,000 Tuesday.

“We’re encouraged about the direction we’re going,” he said of reopening schools.

Gov. Lee holds briefing

Governor Lee is expected to release guidelines for returning to school amid the pandemic.

Posted by WVLT on Tuesday, July 28, 2020

During the briefing, Lee issued reopening guidelines for school districts, saying the state believed getting back to in-person classes was the best path for students. He also said he would be signing a new executive order that would allow for contact sports to resume if they followed TSSAA or similar guidelines.

Also on Tuesday, the Tennessee Health Department released updated numbers on COVID-19 cases, bringing the number up to 99,044 with 2,555 additional cases from Monday. The department said they were experiencing delays, therefore updated numbers on deaths, hospitalizations and recoveries were not available at the time of the briefing.

Lee said the issue of reopening schools “impacts thousands of families across this state” and added that he appreciated the partnership between the states and local school districts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently came out in favor of in-classroom learning.

Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey told media that children weren’t linked to spreading illnesses as often as adults. “Children are not the primary drivers” of illness in schools, she said. “They’re also not the primary source of infection among family members in a household.”

Dr. Deborah Birx, with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, arrived in Tennessee this week to encourage Tennesseans to wear masks “in order to get back to school.” Lee has repeatedly said he will not enforce a statewide mask mandate, leaving it up to local governments to do so.

Lee has also said he is not considering another economic shutdown.

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