Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order today allowing parents to opt out of any school mask mandates Monday afternoon.

Lee gave the order as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges across the Lakeway Area and Tennessee.

“No one cares about the health and well-being of a child more than a parent,” Lee said. “I am signing an executive order today that allows parents to opt their children out of a school mask mandate if either a school board or health board enacts one over a district.”

Currently, the Hamblen County school board has steered clear of any action on mask mandates. Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said there would be a community forum called before any action took place.

But, Lee said Monday that parents should have the ultimate say in their child’s care.

“Districts will make the decision they believe are best for their schools, but parents will have the ultimate decision-making for their individual child’s health and well-being.”

The Tennessee House of Representatives recently called for a special session about mask mandates in order to pass legislation that would allow parents the right to choose.

State Rep. Rick Eldridge, R-Morristown, signed the letter asking for the special session.

Lee said Monday he would not call a special session and the executive order should suffice.

Lee also acknowledged the toll that the current surge is placing on the hospital system. The latest numbers from Friday show 542 active cases of COVID-19 in Hamblen County.

“Our hospitals are struggling under the weight of COVID, but those hospital beds are filled with adults,” Lee said. “Requiring parents to make their children wear masks to solve an adult problem is in my view the wrong approach.”