Tennessee doctors, nurses pressure Gov. Lee to drop parental opt-out order on school mask requirements

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Gov. Bill Lee is greeted by Tennessee Sen. Bo Watson after arriving at McConnell Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Hixson, Tenn to present the school with the Governor's Civic Seal award.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee doctors, nurses and other medical professionals presented Gov. Bill Lee's administration a 5,400-signature petition Friday urging the governor to drop his executive order that lets parents and guardians of K-12 students opt their children out of local school mask requirements.

The doctors cited an alarming rise in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations among teens and younger children.

During a Zoom news conference, a number of medical professionals took turns reading from the letter calling on Lee to reverse course from Executive Order 84, which he signed earlier in the week.

"We urge Gov. Lee and our elected leaders to listen to the health care professionals of Tennessee," said Dr. Erica Kaye, a Memphis physician who penned the open letter that was widely supported in the medical community. "An executive order that allows parents to opt out of masks threatens the public health of entire communities and our state at large."