Read Gov. Lee’s address on COVID-19

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is Gov. Bill Lee’s address on COVID-19, as prepared for delivery on Sunday evening. The governor lauded local mayors for imposing mask mandates, but stopped short of issuing one for the whole state.

Good evening Tennesseans. It’s Christmas week, ordinarily a time when families across the state are gathering to celebrate. Unfortunately, these are not ordinary times. We are in a global pandemic that’s been crippling our country for months and now Tennessee is ground zero for a surge in sickness. I am speaking with you tonight because I want to be clear with where we are and what we need to do together to get through this.

We now have around 10,000 Tennesseans getting sick every day. To put that in perspective, that’s three times where we were around Halloween. Thousands of our neighbors are in the hospital tonight. More than 100 people are dying each day. We are in a war. With the arrivals of the first vaccine, we have launched an offensive that will end this war. But it is the next few weeks that is going to be the most critical for our state.

We have seen firsthand that Thanksgiving gatherings and extended time indoors have been the principal driver in spreading COVID-19 like wildfire. 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.

I am asking you 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.

But beyond family gatherings and what I am asking you to do in your own home, we need to address public gatherings through these important weeks, as well.

I am signing an order that will limit indoor public gatherings to 10 people.

I believe high school sports are important for our kids and they should continue. In coordination with the TSSAA, we are limiting attendance at indoor sporting events.

We know that it is gatherings that have caused this surge. That is why we are making these decisions around gatherings that will help us blunt the rise in cases.

Additionally, I am asking business owners to let employees work from home for the next 30 days. If work from home is not available, masks should be worn at work. Plain and simple.

I want to talk about the importance of wearing masks around people who do not live in your home. Right now, 70% of Tennesseans are under a mask requirement. I commend the local officials who have implemented mask requirements. Because of that, 80% of Tennesseans report they wear their masks most or all of the time and I thank them for doing this. We need them to continue and the remaining 20% to wear a mask and protect their health.

Many think a statewide mandate would improve mask wearing, many think it would have the opposite effect. This has been a heavily politicized issue. 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.

Tennesseans have two weapons that they must use in the next 30 days: only gather with your household and wear a mask.

The State of Tennessee will continue to mobilize every effective resource in this war. COVID testing is available to everyone free of charge. Vaccines are being delivered to every corner of the state. We are getting hundreds of thousands of vaccines out to our nursing home residents and health care workers so they can be vaccinated.

As our hospitals face this surge of sick Tennesseans, we have authorized the National Guard medics to work in hospitals and provide lifesaving care. We have established COVID specific nursing homes so that we protect the most vulnerable and help hospitals free up critical bedspace. We will continue to utilize every effective resource but government cannot do this alone.

We are in a cold, cruel phase of this pandemic. It will get worse before it gets better. I know you are tired. But we have got to double down. I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s words during the darkest days of World War II: “It would be foolish to disguise the gravity of the hour. It would be still more foolish to lose heart and courage.”

I believe in the courage of Tennesseans to face this darkest hour. I believe that victory will be ours and we have the power to determine how long this extends. If we each do our part, we will win and move to a new season of health and prosperity for our state.

I extend my heartfelt thanks to each Tennessean for their attention and care tonight. God bless the State of Tennessee.

62 Responses to Read Gov. Lee’s address on COVID-19

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    “I am signing an order that will limit indoor public gatherings to 10 people.” #LeeTheTyrant – Unconstitutional

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      Cannoneer2 says:

      But “indoor public gathering” doesn’t apply to business, does it? I’m sure that the virus knows the difference and won’t target anyone trying to make money.

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        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        SHUT ‘ER DOWN!!! SHUT ‘ER ALL DOWN!!! Everyone stay home and let the Fed simply print money to support us all until every little itsy bitsy bit of virus is banished from the land. Love it!

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          MARLE says:

          Cruz wants the Fed to print money and for the Fed to determine the value of money to be less than Zero%. I guess that is what makes his h score so high. *See what I did there, Stuart. A small case h AND just the initial. Panties are in for a workout today.

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Nobody appreciates a joke more than me, but MARLE, when you start disrespectfully playing fast and loose with the name of a venerable institution like Heritage Foundation I think you simply go too far.

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            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            I just picked up today’s mail and I was so pleased to find a Christmas card from Senator Ted Cruz (Heritage-91%), so in case you are not on his Christmas card list MARLE, I’m sure he would want to convey to you and all of his supporters the following: “Wishing You and Yours a Merry Christmas and Blessed Holiday Season.”

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            MARLE says:

            Did his card include as self-addressed, stamped return envelope for mo money, mo money?

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            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Though Lord knows Ted can use the money for the struggles ahead and we should all be ready to lend a financial hand when the time comes, it is Christmas so of course not!

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    Stuart I. Anderson says:

    A fine well modulated address from a Governor who respects the citizens of the state he leads the majority of whom value freedom and liberty and can be relied on to do the right thing.

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      Michael Lottman says:

      If the citizenry can be relied on to do the right thing, why don’t they do it? And I don’t believe 70% of TN residents are covered by a face-mask mandate–even if that were so, nowhere near 70% are complying with it. Here in Cheatham County, we don’t have a mandate for face masks or anything else, and darn few of the people I encounter on my daily rounds are wearing one. There is no reason for these public officials, including county mayors and our weak-kneed governor, not to mandate the wearing of face masks when they concede it is essential to slowing the advance of the pandemic.

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        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        Are the hospitals in Cheatham County becoming overwhelmed with patients? Sorry, I simply can’t believe that the authorities in Cheatham County are willfully ignoring a crises if there was one. Local authorities should handle local hot spots in terms of the virus. There is no reason the Governor has to declare state wide edicts that go any farther than the one he has already declared.

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          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          “Mandate” all you want Michael, there is no way to effectively enforce a mask mandate because it is a rotten thankless job and law enforcement has more important things they have to do especially if a sizeable portion of the population in unsympathetic to the mandate as you indicate.

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          MARLE says:

          Hospital capacity is not the only downside to unbridled freedom in a Pandemic. The Extraordinary cost to taxpayers of medical care is a primary reason to try to lessen spread.

          Since only half of Americans pay Federal Income Taxes I suppose they don’t care. But the principal still applies. Your freedom stops at my nose.

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      Herbert Mark Rogers says:

      Stuart is the voice of the ‘extremism in the defense of liberty even at the price of sanity’ caucus. Barry Goldwater would hang his head in shame. Ronald Reagan would go back to the Democrats at the sight of a Republican Party that put faux definitions of freedom ahead of real science.

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        Jason Wallflower says:

        The GOP is not the party of Reagan and Goldwater right now.

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          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Absolutely correct Jason, it’s the party of the Chamber of Commerce, bless their heart.

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            MARLE says:

            So the party of Graham, Rubio, and Cruz was, 4 years ago the Chamber party and now those 3 are a breed apart. An entire career for these three thriving in the Chamber party but now free agents. Really, Stuart?

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            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            The Republican Party is a very amorphous party when you start referring to individual officeholders as some sort of package, much more so that the Democrats. That is especially true of the three you mentioned, Graham (Heritage-56%), Rubio (82%), and Cruz (91%) so you can’t make generalizations about them as one package. The Republican Party leadership and as an institution is and has always been unquestionably the party of the Chamber. That’s why throughout history conservatives have said (altogether audience) “MILLION FOR CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATES, NOT A PENNY FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.”

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            MARLE says:

            Oh..my bad. I thought you were a supporter of Cruz. He has demonstrated there’s not a difference between him, Rubio and Graham. Once upon a time, just a mere 4 yrs ago, you might have found a difference but through the Magic of Trump we see that the 3 amigos have a never-before-defined solidarity on nearly every important Fed policy, agenda, or expansion of Exec power.

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            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            It is a recurring story with you MARLE, you parlay your intense dislike of Trump with your aversion to party politics and the things you must do if you aspire to climb to the top of the hyper greasy poll in a party. Trumpidians are and will be a major force in the Republican Party who simply must not be alienated if possible. You can always be a Ben Sasse (Heritage-90%) and be a permanent Senator from, let’s say Nebraska, but if you aspire to be President, as the three you mentioned unquestionably do, you best not be like Ben Sasse.

            It ain’t pretty, but that’s the way it is whether, has been, and will be forever more. The Heritage scores show that there is much, much more than a dimes worth of difference between the “three amigos” and I chose the right one to back and if the Heritage scores stay about the same I may very well back Cruz again, hideous facial hair and all, should he run.

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            MARLE says:

            I do not dislike TRUMP. He showed me all of his personality quirks as he ran in 2016 AND I voted for him . So…your underlying premise is simply Wrong. (something I should be used to by now)

            I don’t like his Policies, most particularly the ones that are 180 degrees the reversal of what he ran on. I Liked CANDIDATE Trump’s promises. I find much fault with President Trump’s policies.

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      LeeAnn C. says:

      Agreed, with the exception of the “masks work” mantra. Obviously, increased masking does not reduce the impact of this contagious…and extremely tiny…virus. Vulnerable people need to take great care. If you have risks due to this virus, you should distance yourself and wear a face shield. Distributing the wrong preventive action protects no one!

  • Avatar
    Keith Richardson says:

    Governor Lee is not a leader, not a compassionate Christian, only a weak-kneed politician responsible for the completely avoidable deaths of no telling how many Tennesseeans.
    SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!

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    Molly Mann says:

    A lot of the Tennessee Legislators won’t wear masks and some of them are getting Covid.

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    Carol says:

    What is unconstitutional about limiting indoor “public” gatherings to 10 people during a pandemic? Is reducing the spread of a deadly disease unconstitutional?

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      James White says:

      Presidents, Governors and Mayors and Judges and health departments do not write laws. Legislatures’ write laws. That is why their ‘mandates’ are unconstitutional.

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        Jonathan Swift says:

        James, the constitutionality of mandates in TN has been officially affirmed months ago. Time to find another horse to flog.
        https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/attorneygeneral/documents/ops/2020/op20-14.pdf

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          James White says:

          AG just an opinion.

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            Perry Aubric says:

            Because no trained lawyer, no attorney general, no judge, no trained constitutional scholar can possibly know as much as James.

            Give me a break.

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            James White says:

            Perry, that is the beauty of the Constitution, You DON”t have to an attorney to understand it. Remember the Federalist papers? They were written for the Farmers of New York state to explain the constitution (oh and None of them were educated in Government Schools)

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        MARLE says:

        Since you keep saying this James …what is the Scotus case that has ruled this to be unconstitutional. I am sure that curfews, mandates and the like have at some point in the last 200 yrs made their way before the courts.

        What is the case that supports your position? And if you can’t tell me will you stop posting this?

        • Avatar
          James White says:

          The constitution does not grant interpretation power to the courts or even review of laws. Laws are granted only to the legislative branch (the House and the Senate particularly)
          The courts have no enforcement power.

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Great! Let’s relitigate Marbury vs. Madison. I always had a sneaking suspicion that’s where this country started to proceed down the “Wrong Track.”

          • Avatar
            MARLE says:

            So you Can yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Or own human beings and sell them on an auction block until the all-white legislature, elected by an all-white electorate, says you have to stop.

            Thank you James for a clarification of your wackiness.

          • Avatar
            James White says:

            Wrong track is correct.
            And who can forget: The Trail of Tears occurred despite the Supreme Court ruling in Worcester v. Georgia (1832) that favored the rights of Native Americans. In response to the ruling, Jackson allegedly said, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”

  • Avatar
    steve cates says:

    As usual from this spineless and foolish “leader” nothing of substance.

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    Jonathan Swift says:

    Well said, Michael. The selfishness of no-maskers, cloaked in the guise of individual liberty, continues to fuel the pandemic nationwide, but especially in TN. As you noted, every day we see the lack of individual responsibility and respect for fellow citizens from those too invested in political cults. The lack of true leadership and concern for public health is astounding.

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      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I know what you mean Jonathan. Political cults like Black Lives Matter, Antifa and other Marxist organizations “. . .cloaked in the guise. . .” of civil rights organizations combined with a “. . .lack of true leadership and concern. . .” so as to put their lawless members in jail for a long time will spell the end of our democracy one of these days.

      • Avatar
        James White says:

        Right on !

      • Avatar
        Jonathan Swift says:

        As usual, Stuart, you deflect and take words out of context because you have no real defense. My statement stands: the lack of true leadership and concern for public health is astounding.

        • Avatar
          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          Only because you have this curious habit of decrying things that you find exist and/or occur on the right side of the political spectrum as though you were an English speaking immigrant from a far off land sentenced to read nothing but The Tennessean and watch nothing but MSNBC while the very things you decry are occurring on the left side too. Of course I am taking your words out of context in order to show you the error of your ways because your “context” is the result of a serious case of tunnel vision.

          • Avatar
            Jonathan Swift says:

            Stuart, I actually have a pretty broad view of the real world, unlike you. Bad behaviors exist all through the political spectrum and I have no problem calling out anyone; however, it frequently seems that on the far right those behaviors are celebrated and trumpeted as normal (or “traditional” in your parlance). So far, you have shown me not errors, but only your own selff-righteous arrogance.

  • Avatar
    Mel Russell says:

    Thank You Gov. Lee for your sensibility and rationally during this difficult time. You can’t please all the people all of the time. There’s always someone unhappy. You are doing the best that can be done. Thank You!

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    Jason Wallflower says:

    Feckless. Bill Lee is feckless.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Lee is about 10 months late with this mask announcement and it doesn’t address the deniers because he is one, but his beliefs have come home to roost with his wife being diagnosed with Covid now. Nobody wants to see that but the deniers continue pumping these misleading beliefs every day. Trump is still denying that he lost the election. Governor Lee and the entire legislative body can be as dumb as they wish but they should NOT be able to endanger so many of our fellow Tennesseans with their stupidity. The Governor might not be able “to please all the people all the time” but he shouldn’t be contributing to the 6,000 plus deaths we have had in our state since February. That is on his watch.

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    Cannoneer2 says:

    “Governor” Lee still “doesn’t recognize” that Joe Biden is our President elect. From this point forward, I’m not “recognizing” Lee as Governor either. As Jason Wallflower said…. feckless!!

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    Phillip Lassiter says:

    Remember. This is the same Lee that was photographed partying on a house boat with over a dozen people maskless-and not long ago. It’s the same Lee that partied in theRose Garden maskless. He was even maskless for some time at budget hearings. He is as DIRTY as Tilman Goins and Courtney Rogers and that Stand Firm guy. All friends of an inconsistent Stuart. Yes. Let the wailing begin, Stuart. I’m not listening

  • Avatar
    Cannoneer2 says:

    Keep talking, Stuart. You, too Phillip.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      We will Cannoneer, that is until your leftist friends that you seem to favor so much shut us down because that’s what they are prone to do, in case you haven’t noticed.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    I am just guessing but I figure that the less you wear a mask in public, the higher your coveted heritage score is! Deny reality, deny science, deny the truth! Keep the blinders on and march straight ahead. One can tell a lot just from knowing that a person like Ted Cruz can have a heritage rating in the 90’s. Proves you don’t have to do much to achieve that level of honor for conservatives. His high score tarnishes the others but it is a pretty ragged and challenged group anyway.

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    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Our (R) “leaders,” Trump and Lee, are casually overseeing the deaths of thousands of Americans while they ignore the pandemic and with their colleagues, line up for a vaccine that is not yet available to the general public demonstrating another fine example of greed and non-leadership!

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    James White says:

    I see Congress passed a $2.3 trillion government funding and coronavirus relief package on Monday. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
    Yes your Republican senate passed this bill, full of pork and Billions to foreign nations….

  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Conservatives don’t like any government, they love to vote NO.

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