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Coronavirus oversight committee demands documents from Gov. Lee, Tennessee congressman calls it harassment

President Donald Trump listens as Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks about protecting seniors Thursday, April 30, 2020, in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

(The Center Square) – The chairman of a Congressional coronavirus oversight committee has demanded Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee provide information about compliance with White House coronavirus response recommendations.

Congressman James Clyburn, D-South Carolina, who serves as chairman of the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent letters to four of the 21 states designated as coronavirus “red zones’: Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

The four states were selected because the committee determined their leadership continually made decisions against public health guidelines, a source from the committee told The Center Square. A letter was not sent to Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, for example, because Abbott recently implemented a statewide mask order.

“Although the Task Force has apparently provided Tennessee with private suggestions concerning public health measures designed to stop the spread of the virus, the state has not implemented many of these recommendations – and instead appears to be following the contradictory public messaging coming from the Administration,” Clyburn wrote.

Clyburn’s letter demands that Lee’s office provide documentation of public health recommendations from the White House Task Force, detailed descriptions of public health measures implemented in Tennessee, and detailed plans to implement additional health measures to stop the virus. Clyburn said documents must be provided to the committee by Aug. 12.

The governor’s office confirmed to The Center Square that the letter has been received and will be reviewed.

Tennessee Congressman Mark Green, who serves on the coronavirus crisis subcommittee, condemned Clyburn’s letter as a partisan attack.

“Whether or not one agrees with each decision made, the Constitution does not grant you or this Committee any right to selectively harass certain states led by governors of the opposite political party,” Green wrote to Clyburn in a letter Wednesday.

Green noted that while the White House report lists 21 states as in the “red zone,” Clyburn sent letters to only four governors, all of whom are Republican.

“Why have you not requested the same documents from Democrat-led states with an explosion of cases, such as California, or states that have botched their response like New York?” Green wrote. “Your letters today reek of partisanship.”

On Monday, Dr. Deborah Birx, a top White House coronavirus task force advisor, visited Nashville to urge leaders to mandate mask use in every county, and close bars.

Lee has said he will not issue a statewide mask mandate, saying that buy-in is crucial to ensure compliance, and a statewide order would not be effective. Lee gave authority to all county mayors in the state to require masks by executive order earlier this month. Birx said Monday that about 70 percent of the state has mask mandates in place, but masks should be required everywhere.

“We can change the future of this virus in this state today … if every mayor throughout this great state would mandate masks, close the bars, and substantially increase indoor dining distancing,” Birx said.

Lee said Monday that he does not intend to shut down businesses again at the state level.

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