By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Lee today announced he was easing COVID business restrictions while still extending the State of Emergency through the end of October. An updated Tennessee Promise will also be issued later in the week.
“We’ve updated our Tennessee Pledge with updated information. As this pandemic has changed, the information has changed so we want to continue to give new guidelines for how Tennesseans can operate their business safely,” said Lee.
Executive Order No. 63 was signed today and includes provisions that:
- Provide that persons with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are required to stay at home, and that employers may not require or allow employees with COVID-19 to work;
- Provide that employers, businesses and venues are expected to comply with the Tennessee Pledge for operating safely (the six counties with locally run county health departments continue to have existing statutory authority to issue additional directives on businesses/venues);
- Increase opportunities to work remotely where appropriate.
Capacity restrictions, such as those for event venues, restaurants and bars, will also be ended, with Lee emphasizing that gatherings are not one size fits all.
At today’s press conference, Lee was pressed about whether he had concerns about opening the state back up.
“One of the things I’m worried about is that our businesses aren’t operating fully and unrestricted because that drives economic recovery and people’s livelihoods are at stake there,” Lee responded. “I’m concerned about that and that’s part of the reason we’ve done this, but it is also the reason that we updated the Tennessee Pledge – that we have an aggressive public service campaign around mask wearing, that we encourage the fundamentals of staying home when you are sick, taking a test, washing your hands, those are all things that we believe are very important going forward.”
The public was assured that while the state is lifting restrictions, they are not removing the affirmation to business owners that they follow safe business practices.
“I do believe that our economy needs to open up and it needs to open up safely,” confirmed Lee. “I think that we need to make every effort to mitigate the spread of the virus and at the same time to take those steps forward. I think the steps I have advocated for in the 89 counties have been the right steps. They’ve been a targeted approach for the right reasons, and I think that’s what local mayors are evaluating for themselves. We’re seeing that happening. I continue to be encouraged and will continue to encourage our leaders to open our economy back up in a safe way that protects people and also provides for an enhanced economic activity in the state.”
“One thing other thing I want to point out that I think may be being lost here today is just because the government regulations and restrictions go away, doesn’t mean that people will stop practicing good behaviors,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP.
“You’ll hear the White House talk about the three W’s: wash your hands, wear your mask and watch your distance. Regulation or not, those are still best practices. We know that Tennesseans know those best practices, and we encourage them to continue them,” Piercey added.
This theme of personal responsibility was shared by Lee. “We are six months into this pandemic, Tennesseans have learned how to assess risk and how to take the right steps to protect themselves and those around them. And I have every confidence that they will do so.”