Lee updates on COVID-19, issues Exec. Order #38

COOKEVILLE – Friday, Gov. Bill Lee provided an update on Tennessee’s efforts regarding COVID-19 and issued Executive Order No. 38 which allows groups of up to 50 people to participate in social and recreational activities while encouraging strong social distancing measures. 

Testing Strategy Continues to Meet Goals

Tennessee continues to be a national leader in COVID-19 testing.Tennessee has already tested 2.5% of the state’s population and is on track to reach 3% by the end of May, surpassing the White House’s testing criteria of 2% per month for a safe reopening.

From May 1 – May 20, Tennessee conducted roughly 177,000 COVID-19 tests, more than all previous weeks combined. The state currently conducts, on average, upwards of 8,700 tests per day and was listed by the Harvard Global Health Institute as one of seven states to reach a benchmark for COVID-19 testing.

Additionally, Unified Command has facilitated testing of the state’s inmate population, major metro urban housing development communities, intellectual and developmental disability communities, long-term care facilities and veterans homes, with continued availability for those in the community regardless of symptoms.

For a full primer on Unified Command’s testing efforts, click here.

Executive Order No. 38

Friday, Gov. Lee issued Executive Order No. 38, which allows groups of up to 50 people to participate in social and recreational activities while encouraging strong social distancing measures. The order’s provisions include:

  • Effective Friday, May 22, this order supersedes and repeals Executive Order Nos. 30, 33, and 35.
  • The order permits more Tennesseans and businesses to return to work in all industries where that can be safely accomplished by following health guidelines and maintaining social distancing from persons outside of your household, while continuing to urge employers to allow or require remote work/telework, if possible.
  • Requirements with respect to social and recreational gatherings, such as festivals, fairs, parades, large parties or picnics, noncontact sporting events and activities, summer camps and other types of social or recreational gatherings, are clarified to focus on the importance of social distancing from persons outside your household and avoiding social/recreational groups of 50 or more persons, consistent with recent conversations and input from counties across the state, including the six locally run county health departments with independent orders or plans in place.
    • This limitation does not cover places of worship, for which there are guidelines for safe operation of worship services and gatherings if in-person services are conducted, but the order strongly encourages places of worship to continue virtual or online services where possible.
    • This limitation does not apply to weddings, funerals, and related events, but encourages postponement of large-gathering components of such events.
    • Non-contact sporting events and activities and summer camps should be conducted in accordance with operational guidance from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Group (e.g., Tennessee Pledge), which is forthcoming soon.
    • Contact sporting events and activities, where there is a requirement or substantial likelihood of routine close contact and adequate social distancing is not feasible, are prohibited, but this does not apply to collegiate or professional sports conducted under the rules or guidelines of their respective governing bodies.  This also does not prohibit training or otherwise practicing the elements of such sports that do not involve close contact with persons.
    • Nursing homes and similar retirement and long-term-care facilities must remain closed to visitors, unless in the discretion of the facility the visit involves critical assistance for the resident or is to a resident receiving end-of-life care, provided that such a visit may be accomplished without unreasonable risk.  These facilities must also ensure that residents with disabilities are afforded necessary visitation by service providers and other persons.
    • Administrators of nursing homes and similar retirement and long-term-care facilities are strongly encouraged to provide COVID-19 testing to all residents and staff or take substantial steps toward completing such testing by May 31, 2020.  Financial and operational support for such testing is available from the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee National Guard.
    • Senior centers or equivalent facilities remain closed to members or the public.
    • Attractions and larger venues may reopen but should follow the Economic Recovery Group Guidelines (e.g., Tennessee Pledge), including with respect to social distancing and capacity limits
    • Bars may reopen but may only serve customers seated at appropriately spaced tables and must follow the Economic Recovery Group Guidelines (e.g., Tennessee Pledge) for restaurants.
    • Tennesseans are urged to continue limiting activity and staying home as much as possible to preserve and build on the health progress we’ve made.
    • All employers and businesses that choose to open are expected to comply with the Governor’s Economic Recovery Group Guidelines for operating safely, as well as general health guidelines from the CDC and other government entities.
    • Persons and businesses are urged to take special care to protect and provide for the well-being of vulnerable populations, including by offering delivery or special shopping hours if possible.
    • Persons with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are required to stay at home, and employers may not require or allow employees with COVID-19 to work.
    • Persons are urged to wear a cloth face covering in places where in close proximity to others, especially where social distancing is difficult.
    • Take-out and delivery alcohol sales by restaurants and limited-service restaurants will continue to be permitted to encourage customers to utilize take-out or delivery options.
    • For the 89 counties without a locally run county health department (all but Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan), this order supersedes any contrary orders or measures, meaning that the counties cannot issue independent orders that would limit application of Executive Order No. 38, though counties may continue issuing or enforcing orders or measures on other matters related to COVID-19, such as opening or closure of their governmental buildings, governing their employees or dealing with the operation of their local government.
    • The county health departments in the 6 counties with locally run county health departments (Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan) shall have authority to issue orders or measures that permit or restrict to a different degree than this order the opening, closure or operation of businesses, organizations, venues or the gathering of persons, except for in the case of places of worship.  Otherwise, this order governs on the topics it covers.

The full text of the order is available here.

Continued Support for Tennessee Families

The Tennessee Dept. of Human Services established the COVID-19 Essential Employee Childcare Payment Assistance Program to provide support for essential workers serving our communities through this pandemic. The program has been expanded until mid-August to support essential employees through the summer. All categories of essential workers identified in EO 22 are now eligible for the program. The full list is located at TN.gov.

The Department has also partnered with YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tennessee to establish free child care for the school aged children of essential workers. Full listing of YMCA and Boys & Girls Club temporary/emergency care locations is available for the YMCA here and the Boys & Girls Clubs here.

Education Update

PBS Teaching Tennessee virtual learning program will continue through the summer, allowing students and families to have access to education and instructional content during time away from the classroom. The full schedule is available here.

All Tennessee families will continue to have access to ReadyRosie, a virtual early childhood education platform made possible through partnership with the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation, through September. More information on ReadyRosie is available here.

Tennessee State Funding Board

In order to better understand the economic impact that has occurred as a result of COVID-19, as well as the implications of those effects, the Governor will be convening a meeting of the State Funding Board, which include state economists as well as economists from the Atlanta Federal Reserve, on Wednesday, May 27, at 10 a.m. in Senate Hearing Room I.  With the exception of the Funding Board Members, who will appear in-person, the meeting will be conducted through electronic means announced in detail on the Comptroller’s website

The census is important!  Please take the time complete your census today by visiting www.2020Census.gov or calling 844-330-2020 to get counted today!  It matters.

Current Department of Health Testing Results (as of 2 p.m. 5/22)

Confirmed CasesHospitalizationsFatalities  RecoveredTotal Tested
19,3941,560315 12,566368,170

Gov. Lee’s conferences can be viewed here. Visit tn.gov/covid19 for up-to-date administrative action. 

For more information on COVID-19 in Tennessee, please visit the Tennessee Department of Health’s website here.

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