JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee made several stops in the Tri-Cities area on Thursday.
His first stop: the COVID-19 testing site at the Washington County Health Department.
While speaking with Rep. Phil Roe and the mayors of Johnson City and Washington County, Lee said shutting down businesses could have possibly been avoided had a face mask mandate been implemented earlier in the pandemic.
“I said this to someone the other day…had hindsight been 20/20 and we done a mask requirement in the beginning of March, we probably wouldn’t have closed anything down,” Lee said.
While he said he is worried about the increasing numbers across the state, he says the only way to truly slow the spread of the virus is wearing masks and continued social distancing.
“We’re averaging in the teens in thousands of tests a day,” Lee said. “At the end of this week, we will likely have tested 1 million Tennesseans, which is a very strong, very strong statement. But testing itself is not the answer.”.
Last week, the governor announced a new partnership with law enforcement agencies to review use-of-force and duty-to-intervene policies.
“I have been so proud of watching local law enforcement, watching the Tennessee Highway Patrol…watching them protect the citizens and their First Amendment rights but watching them protect Tennesseans and Tennessee property,” Lee said at Thursday’s event.
Lee told those at the picnic that law enforcement allowed people to be protected while exercising their First Amendment rights.
“The ideas that have been brought forth…senseless ideas, like defunding the police, are exactly the opposite of the direction we need to go…we need to uphold all citizens, we need to uphold the rights of all citizens,” he said.
The governor then made his final stop of the night: the Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by the Unicoi County Republican Party. He talked about all that he has been through since becoming governor.
Lee also discussed the so-called heartbeat bill recently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly that bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
“We need a heartbeat bill in this state and we’ve never had one before and if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen because the governor brings it forth…it may be the most important thing I ever did as governor and because of the lives that will be saved as a result of that piece of legislation,” Lee said.
“I was proud that we brought forth a piece of legislation protecting all of our Second Amendment rights and giving the rights of Tennesseans to carry.”
The governor also talked about his plans to pick back up on other major initiatives during the next legislative session.