Governor backs Trump statements on COVID-19

By , Daily Memphian Updated: October 06, 2020 4:34 PM CT | Published: October 06, 2020 4:15 PM CT
<strong>Gov. Bill Lee wore a mask during a visit in June to a COVID-19 test site in Memphis.&nbsp;He did not wear a mask during a press briefing in Nashville on Tuesday, Oct. 6, when he agreed with President Donald Trump that people should not fear COVID-19.&nbsp;&ldquo;I think fear is not the right response for what we face in this country. ... ,&rdquo; Lee told reporters.</strong>&nbsp;(Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

Gov. Bill Lee wore a mask during a visit in June to a COVID-19 test site in Memphis. He did not wear a mask during a press briefing in Nashville on Tuesday, Oct. 6, when he agreed with President Donald Trump that people should not fear COVID-19. “I think fear is not the right response for what we face in this country. ... ,” Lee told reporters. (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian file)

Gov. Bill Lee is siding with President Donald Trump, saying people should not fear COVID-19 though he notes people should “respect” the virus and take steps to avoid it.

“I think fear is not the right response for what we face in this country. I think concern and seriousness and action and appropriate steps, but fear is not something we should use as a strategy to fight COVID-19,” Lee told reporters Tuesday, Oct. 6, in a press briefing on the Capitol steps.

After contracting the disease and spending four days in the hospital, Trump returned to the White House Monday evening where he walked up the steps, took off his mask, then went inside after saluting the Marine One helicopter. He tweeted that people should not “fear” the virus and not let it “dominate” their lives.


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Still recovering, the president reportedly said Tuesday he plans to participate in a second presidential debate next week in Miami. It is unclear whether he had contracted COVID-19 already when participating in the first debate Sept. 29.

Asked what he would tell Tennesseans, Lee said his administration takes the disease “very seriously” but that the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 recover. Of 205,375 cases in Tennessee, 187,026 people have recovered and 2,511 have died. About 208,000 have died nationwide.


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“I think that’s what the president is referring to. We also know that people lose their lives as a result of it. I think, again, we’re seven months into this. People know a lot about this. They know how to assess risk,” Lee said.

Tennessee is in somewhat of a COVID surge, though, with several Tennessee Titans players and staff testing positive, forcing their latest game to be postponed, and Williamson County closing schools because of cases there.

The governor said he did not wear a mask during Tuesday’s press gaggle because he was 5 or 6 feet away from reporters. But he was seen without a mask in a Twitter photo recently on a pro-Trump flotilla with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty, who has campaigned heavily across the state. Lee said a few days later, he felt safe in that setting.

A White House Rose Garden event where President Trump introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his U.S. Supreme Court nominee is believed to a “super spreader” for COVID-19, with several senators, White House staff and journalists who were there contracting the disease.

In addition to downplaying the danger of COVID-19, the president has sent the public mixed messages, at best, on the importance of wearing masks, even making fun of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden during their first debate for wearing masks.

Many of the president’s campaign events have involved large numbers of people without masks, though the president has been situated far enough away to avoid personal contact.

Asked if he would be leery of attending similar events with large numbers of people without masks, Lee said he would make a “personal decision” each time he enters a setting to determine whether it’s safe.

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Topics

Bill Lee President Donald Trump
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a Nashville-based reporter with more than 30 years of journalism experience as a writer, editor and columnist covering the state Legislature and Tennessee politics for The Daily Memphian.


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