Tennessee governor says COVID-19 no longer statewide public health crisis

Governor says COVID-19 no longer public health crisis in Tennessee, wants remaining mask and business restrictions lifted statewide

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Governor Bill Lee says COVID-19 is now managed and no longer a statewide public health crisis.

Speaking Tuesday, Lee announced a new executive order ending statewide public health orders. It also ends the local authority on mask mandates in 89 counties, not including Shelby County.

“COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue in Tennessee and no longer a statewide public health emergency,” said 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.”

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Lee says he’s asking Shelby County and five others to lift all remaining business restrictions and mask mandates by the end of May. He says he spoke personally with Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris about the request.

“We are pleased that our numbers have been relatively stable for several weeks and, more importantly, almost every resident now has access to the vaccine,” said Harris. “That’s why we made the announcement two weeks ago that we would likely shift away from economic restrictions altogether in the next health directive. Because of our numbers and vaccine availability, we continue to be on track.”

Shelby County has seen increases in COVID-19 cases, test positivity rates and reproductive rate in recent weeks.

The county has had 21 days this month with new COVID-19 cases above 100.

Lee’s new executive order removes the local authority for county mayors in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to require face coverings and asks counties with independent health departments, like Shelby County, to drop the remaining restrictions by May 31.

The new executive order also extends deregulatory provisions allowing individuals, businesses and other organizations time to adopt operations in anticipation of ending the provisions and maintains the state’s access to federal funding for SNAP benefits and reimbursements for the Tennessee National Guard’s testing and vaccination efforts.

The order implores local health departments to offer a walk-up option for vaccinations and retires the Tennessee Pledge with business guidelines issued at the start of the pandemic.

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