Shelby County Health Director reacts to possibility of special session on mask mandates

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:33 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A letter written by Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton was sent to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Wednesday requesting to hold a special session to discuss face masks in schools.

Sexton said lawmakers would “address misdirected and mandated responses to COVID-19 by local entities and officials.”

The letter comes after many Tennessee entities like the Shelby County Health Department mandated masks for all schools within Shelby County.

″We’re seeing sicker children; we’re seeing children in ICU in a way we weren’t seeing in the beginning of the pandemic, and we are seeing some children die,” Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said.

Several lawmakers signed the letter including Representative Mark White, who represents parts of Shelby County.

“We need to address it,” White said.

He says he believes parents have the right to make decisions for their children.

”A lot of parents believe that their child’s sitting in a classroom for eight hours a day. The health concerns are just as great as the COVID concerns,” White said.

Meanwhile Democratic Sen. Raumesh Akbari strongly opposes the idea of a special session.

″This is not a game. We see this new deadly wave of the Delta variant and parental choice exists to a certain extent. But when it comes to public safety and keeping kids and teachers safe, that’s just not, not a direction we need to go in,” Akbari said.

During a COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said she understand citizen’s rights to question the law, but right now she is well within her right to mandate the masks in schools.

″At this point Shelby County Health Department is well within the law to protect children at K-12 schools, Pre-Ks and daycares, and one way we can protect them is by asking that everyone wear a mask,” Taylor said.

Action News 5 reached out to Gov. Lee’s office for his response to the letter.

A spokesperson says he is reviewing the request.

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