Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee implements gathering restrictiton as COVID-19 cases surge

Grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation, Gov. Bill Lee will mandate social gathering restrictions but refuses to require mask-wearing in Tennessee as the deadly illness rampages the state, stretching hospitals to their limits and claiming more than 6,000 lives.

Lee announced the new gathering restriction in a video address Sunday night, urging Tennesseans only to gather within their household for Christmas and asking employers to allow workers to work from home. The restrictions will not apply to at-home events or churches.

“We tried to be as targeted and specific to what we think the actual problem is and not go beyond that,” Lee said to members of the General Assembly.

More:Here are the latest coronavirus maps, charts and numbers in Tennessee

Many anticipated the governor would announce a mask mandate in the rare statewide address, but he will stop short of that in favor of making an emotional appeal for voluntary compliance with mask guidelines and limiting social interactions in the coming weeks.

Governor Bill Lee talks with the media after attending a briefing with the Dr. Deborah Birx and other health officials in Nashville, Tenn. Monday, July 27, 2020

Tennessee on Sunday ranked No. 1 in the country for COVID-19 infections in the past week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adjusted for population.

The Republican governor has long been against a statewide mask mandate, preferring for months to let local government leaders throughout the state determine whether requiring masks was best for their communities.

Statewide on Saturday, Tennessee recorded a staggering, record-setting 30% positivity rate on coronavirus tests processed.

Read More:Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee implements gathering restrictiton as COVID-19 cases surge