Tennessee governor orders end to state, local COVID-19 public health restrictions

The federal government and individual states have been operating under some form of emergency orders related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year.

In Tennessee, however, that appears to be coming to an end, as Republican Gov. Bill Lee explained in his recent executive action.

“A managed public health issue”

As he announced on Tuesday, the governor is rescinding previous public health orders and setting the state on a path for fully reopening with hopes of a return to normalcy by the end of next month, TheBlaze reports.

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

Lee’s executive order also noted that, although there had never been a statewide mask mandate, municipal and county officials were given the option of imposing local mandates if deemed necessary. That authority has now been revoked in all 89 counties that fall under the direction of the state health department.

As for the six counties with independent health departments, Lee requested that they follow suit with an end to business restrictions and mask mandates by May 30.

The order does appear to keep in place at least some level of an emergency declaration if only to ensure that various deregulatory efforts can remain in effect and allow the state’s residents to remain eligible for various federal pandemic-related benefits.

“Learn to live with it”

During a press conference this week, Lee cited the fact that all Tennesseans over the age of 16 had been eligible to receive a vaccine for a full month as a primary factor in his decision to move forward with a full reopening of the state.

“COVID-19 is part of public health, and it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future,” the governor said, according to The Hill. “But we have to learn to live with it just like we do with any risk. When there’s an emergency or crisis, governments should respond. When that crisis diminishes, governments should respond again and snap back.”

During a Fox News Channel interview, he discussed his decision with America’s Newsroom co-host Dana Perino, declaring: “It’s time for us to move on. I think we don’t have a crisis anymore. It’s a new season and we need to make steps toward that new season. We need to actually start living in that new season.”

Lee acknowledged that a level of vaccine hesitancy and a slowdown in the number of doses being administered but insisted that widespread availability of the shots “changes everything,” meaning that his state must “change everything as well.”

With his eyes set on Memorial Day for a complete repeal of COVID-19 restrictions, he said that “Tennessee is wide open.”

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