Gov. Bill Lee will not extend Tennessee's COVID State of Emergency

State of Emergency will expire tonight
bill lee
Posted at 9:27 AM, Nov 19, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee announced he will not extend Tennessee's COVID-19 State of Emergency.

The governor's office released the following statement Friday, saying the State of Emergency will expire Friday night.

“I am not renewing the COVID-19 state of emergency that expires tonight. For almost 20 months, this tool has provided deregulation and operational flexibility for hospitals and industries most affected by COVID’s challenges," Gov. Lee said. "Should our state face any future surges, we will consider temporarily reinstating this tool, but in the meantime, we are evaluating opportunities for permanent deregulation.”

State Rep. John Ray Clemmons says most Tennesseans, "are not going to notice any difference." He calls it a missed opportunity to make a difference. Gov. Lee granted authority for county mayors to make up their own safety protocols, but decided against a statewide mask mandate.

"I am disappointed that he made a political decision to end the state of emergency, rather than one based on the real trends with COVID-19 and our low vaccination rates," Clemmons said.

We asked Gov. Lee's office if not being under a state of emergency will limit our ability to access federal funding to combat the virus? They sent the following statement:

"We don't anticipate any negative impact. The previous limited SOE remained in place primarily to allow for short-term healthcare workforce flexibilities and we are evaluating opportunities to make those permanent. For over a year the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group (FSAG) has worked to ensure proper fiscal management of all federal COVID-19 relief funds coming to the state. They have already released a plan for American Rescue Plan dollars, which was the last federal relief package."

Click on this link for the newly released plan.

Where we could notice the biggest difference is with local hospital staffing. The state of emergency gave doctors and nurses the chance to travel to Tennessee and practice medicine without the need for a state license.

"We're already facing a nursing shortage across the state of Tennessee, so I'm afraid some of our healthcare facilities and healthcare providers are going to face new restraints on what they can and cannot do," Clemmons said.

Gov. Lee says that he could reinstate the state of emergency if we have any surges, which Clemmons says begs the question of why change to begin with?

Tennessee ranks among the bottom five states in the country for the number of fully vaccinated people at just above 50 percent.

"Even though there's not a legal state of emergency, we still need to be aware that there is a threat out there in the form of COVID-19 and we must all be diligent and get vaccinated," Clemmons said.

Gov. Lee recently signed the special session's omnibus bill, which changes how Tennessee responds to COVID-19. The law will have a major impact on the ability of schools, businesses and local health boards to mandate masks or vaccines.

However, just two days later, a federal injunction halted the law from taking effect after a lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight students who claimed their disabilities put them at a higher risk to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles just declared a state of emergency Friday to "protect healthcare workers and their right to religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine."

The order makes it so staff won't lose their jobs by denying a vaccine and later creating an even bigger shortage of healthcare workers in the county.