"They're doing their best to care for the people refusing to get vaccinated," the president said of doctors and nurses treating patients during the pandemic

Joe Biden
Joe Biden
| Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

President Joe Biden on Thursday praised the Tennessee healthcare workers who were catcalled and heckled earlier this week after a local school board approved a temporary mask requirement for students, staff and visitors at all elementary school buildings and buses through at least Sept. 21.

"I saw a video and reports from Tennessee, of protestors threatening doctors and nurses who were before a school board making a case that to keep kids safe, there should be mandatory masks," Biden, 78, said Thursday, during a news conference about lowering prescription drug prices. "And as they walked out, these doctors and nurses were threatened."

Biden continued: "Our healthcare workers are heroes. They were the heroes when there was no vaccine. Many of them gave their lives trying to save others. They're heroes again with the vaccine. They're doing their best to care for the people refusing to get vaccinated."

The Williamson County Board of Education approved the mandate Tuesday, after a nearly four-hour special session meeting.

Upon approval of the mandate, anti-mask demonstrators verbally attacked and threatened those supporting the mask mandate, with protests spilling into the parking lot despite local authorities' pleas to remain calm.

Footage shared by local journalist Matt Masters captured a chaotic post-meeting scene in which anti-mask demonstrators verbally attacked and threatened those supporting the mask mandate, despite local authorities' pleas to remain calm.

"We know who you are! No more masks!" one man yelled as he followed another man to his car. "You can leave freely, but we know who you are. We will find you … You will never be allowed in public again. You better watch out."

Dr. Britt Maxwell, an internal medicine specialist, was among those who attended the meeting, and told CNN he was called a "traitor" by protesters in the parking lot outside.

 "I don't see how anyone can [call me a traitor] when I've been on the front lines of this pandemic since the beginning, treating patients in rooms, unvaccinated for the vast majority, hoping I wouldn't take it home to my family," he told the outlet. "And for someone to say that, it's mind-blowing."

Medical professionals attending the meeting emphasized the recent increase in cases among children due to the Delta variant. As children under the age of 12 cannot yet get vaccinated, wearing masks protects not only the wearer, but children in the community.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that masks are indeed effective when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19.

"As a pediatric ICU physician, we are seeing more younger previously healthy children admitted with respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome than we have in prior strains, as cases in children are on the rise," Jennifer King, a pediatric intensive care physician, said at the Tuesday school board meeting, according to CNN. "This trend will only worsen if we don't act now."