Gov. Lee ends public health orders, mask mandates across Tennessee

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee announced the end of statewide public health orders Tuesday morning and signed Executive Order 80 to address economic and regulatory functions.

Executive Order 80 also ends the local authority to issue mask requirements in the 89 counties directed by the state health department. It will go into effect Wednesday at 12:01 a.m.

“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.”

Gov. Lee expanded on his announcement in a series of tweets, which reads:

“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. Remaining executive actions will address a few lingering economic and regulatory issues. We have never had a statewide mask mandate and I am removing authority from local officials to issue mask requirements. I have asked mayors in our Big 6 counties to remove any remaining mask mandates AND business restrictions before Memorial Day Weekend. This is about trusting Tennesseans, using the tools we have at our disposal to move on from crisis management and back to life and back to business. Tennessee is moving forward thanks to her people.”

EO 80 contains the following provisions and is effective through May 31, 2021:

Removing Local Mask Authority

While Tennessee has never had a statewide mask mandate, EO 80 removes the local authority for county mayors in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to require face coverings throughout their jurisdictions.

Gov. Lee has requested counties with independent health departments – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – that have remaining business restrictions or mask requirements to lift all measures no later than the end of May.

Extending Deregulatory Provisions

EO 80 extends helpful deregulatory provisions to enable individuals, businesses and other organizations time to adapt their operations in anticipation of ending said provisions.

Maintaining Federal Funding

EO 80 maintains Tennessee’s access to federal funding, including SNAP benefits and cost reimbursements for the Tennessee National Guard’s testing and vaccination efforts.

In addition to EO 80, the following provisions are effective immediately:

Offering Walk-Up Vaccine Option

While the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be available to Tennesseans aged 16 and older by appointment, local health departments will now offer a walk-up option.

Retiring Optional Business Guidance

The Tennessee Pledge business guidelines issued at the start of COVID-19 have been officially retired.

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