Tennessee pediatricians call for masks in schools to prevent COVID spread as new year begins

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Tennessee pediatricians and frontline doctors say they are alarmed by the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and inaction by some state leaders, including Governor Bill Lee as the start of the school year nears.

Doctors are calling for masking in schools as COVID-19 cases and the more contagious Delta variant soar. They’re also advocating for those eligible for a vaccine to get the shots.

“If you look at the data from the CDC, almost the entire state of Tennessee is in the orange or red zone meaning substantially and high, very high rates of COVID transmission,” Dr. Katrina Green, an emergency physician in Nashville and Lawrenceburg said.

Because of that, the group of pediatricians is calling on Governor Lee and local school districts to follow the CDC guidelines and require masks to be worn for teachers and students.

“We need to get our act together as a state and do what needs to be done to prevent the spread of this virus, which is to require masks as school starts,” Green said.

Republican Representative Jason Zachary of Knoxville called the new CDC guidance “foolish.”

“Masks, they decrease the amount of bacterial particles that you’re breathing into the air surrounding you, but they also decrease the amount of those particles and virus particles that you’re going to be inhaling into your own body,” Green said.

Governor Lee says he will encourage vaccinations, but mandating masks is a “no,” according to his office.

“It’s not that the mask just protects others, it also will protect you especially if you’ve not been vaccinated,” Green said.

Democrats say Republican lawmakers must step up in the fight against COVID-19.

“This governor has sat on the sidelines for far too long and we’ve let the political rhetoric take over the conversation way too much instead of finding solutions that are going to really work for people,” Rep. Vincent Dixie, a Nashville Democrat said.

If no action is taken to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools, Dr. Green says the results could be devastating.

“It means that our infection rate will go up and with increasing infection rates leads to increasing hospitalization, increasing patients on ventilators and increased deaths; there’s no way to put it mildly,” Green said.

Pediatricians say children can get COVID-19 and have lasting symptoms. In fact, some Tennessee children have died from COVID-19.

Children under 12 are not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine at this point.

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