Bill Lee Sept 17

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at the State Capitol Building in Nashville during a September 17 press briefing.

During a press briefing event on Thursday, Gov. Bill Lee spoke to safety concerns regarding the recently held Maury County Fair, which by early estimates saw upwards of 20,000 people attend amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

On Sept. 3, thousands of Tennesseans from all across the state flocked to Maury County for the annual event - an event that’s been held every year for more than 70 years.

While fair organizers implemented some safety measures as a means to help stop the spread of COVID-19, with no mask mandate imposed in the county, and with fair organizers having no social distancing enforcement mechanisms in venues such as a large arena, thousands of fairgoers could be seen packed tightly together, the majority of which were not wearing face coverings.

“I certainly think that mayors have an obligation to be responsible in the way they protect their citizens in their counties, it's one of the reasons that I think you give local elected officials authority to do so,” Lee told reporters in the State Capitol Building Thursday.


Maury County Fair attendees pack the Big Arena Thursday, September 3 for the Monster Truck Rally event.

“The citizens of Maury County will respond positively or negatively to any number of things that happen in their county - I have concerns any time we have events that might create a spread incident.”

Lee did say that he would be interested in looking at any potential future cases of COVID-19 associated with the event, but ultimately, stressed the importance of “being personally responsible” as the best tool to help combat the virus.

“I just implore Tennesseans all across the state to use common sense, to make decisions of their own but to remember that there are things that work,” Lee said.

“When you are in an environment that you think is going to expose yourself or others to COVID-19, wear a mask when it's the right place at the right time. Washing your hands, stay at home when you're sick... those things sound repetitive, but we say them over and over because they really do matter.”

Lee said that public health officials do have the authority to intervene in events that pose a significant public health risk, but that such a response hasn’t been used since the onset of the pandemic as “there hasn’t been a time or an event when we thought someone’s life was in danger.”

“This whole thing across our state is really an issue of making personal decisions and being personally responsible; as a community, as a leader, as an individual," Lee said. "Tennesseans have done a very good job of doing that, and I'm proud of that."