NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee announced the end of statewide public health orders on Tuesday, saying COVID-19 is now "a managed public health issue." His new executive order also ends the local authority to issue mask requirements in 89 counties.
Lee said he signed Executive Order 80 to "address economic and regulatory functions." The new executive order is effective through May 31.
“COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue in Tennessee and no longer a statewide public health emergency,” said Gov. Lee. “As Tennesseans continue to get vaccinated, it’s time to lift remaining local restrictions, focus on economic recovery and get back to business in Tennessee.”
WHAT THIS MEANS
Despite continued calls from doctors and health experts, Tennessee never had a statewide mask mandate. However, local authorities in 89 of Tennessee's 95 counties were allowed to issue mask mandates throughout their jurisdictions. That order did not apply to Metro areas, like Nashville, that have an independent health department.
Lee's new Executive Order 80 removes the local authority for county mayors to issue mask mandates.
The governor has also requested that Davidson, Shelby, Madison, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan counties lift all business restrictions and mask requirements no later than the end of May.
Early Tuesday, the Metro Public Health Department announced it was lifting all COVID restrictions -- except the indoor mask mandate -- on May 14. Metro Coronavirus Task Force Chair Dr. Alex Jahangir said masks are still an effective way to continue to protect those who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
"Masks have been shown effective in minimizing the risk of spread, asymptomatic spread. So I'm vaccinated but I still may carry the virus, maybe somebody can't be vaccinated -- children. There's a huge bunch of the city that still can't get vaccinated because they're not eligible. We don't want to spread it to kids who can then spread it to others," Dr. Jahangir said.
A widely available vaccine changes everything and it’s a new season in Tennessee. I am not renewing any public health orders because COVID-19 is no longer a health emergency in our state.— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) April 27, 2021
Per Lee's new executive order, local health departments will also offer walk-up vaccinations for residents.
Lee said it also maintains Tennessee’s access to federal funding, including SNAP benefits and cost reimbursements for the Tennessee National Guard’s testing and vaccinations.
The governor's office said the Tennessee Pledge business guidelines, which were issued at the start of the pandemic, have been officially retired.
COVID NUMBERS IN TENNESSEE
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tennessee has had the fourth-worst coronavirus outbreak per 100,000 residents in the nation. The CDC also lists Tennessee as one of the lowest states in the country for total doses administered per 100,000 residents.
As of April 26, 12,152 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 in Tennessee.