Governor sees end of COVID-19 state of emergency coming soon

Gov. Bill Lee ending his third State of the State address. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Gov. Bill Lee ending his third State of the State address on Feb. 8, 2021. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Gov. Bill Lee partially lifted a 13-month-long state of emergency Tuesday, announcing the end of public health orders and signing an executive order dealing with economic and regulatory functions.

The governor all but declared the end of the COVID-19 pandemic as a health threat. He removed the ability of mayors in 89 of 95 counties to mandate masks and encouraged those in the state’s six largest counties to lift their requirements.

Lee said he spoke with Metro Nashville Mayor John Cooper who is ending business restrictions and hoping to lift a mask mandate soon. The governor requested independent health departments in Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan to drop business restrictions and mask requirements by the end of May.

“We’ve entered a new season. We have significant tools at our disposal, and it’s time for government to get out of the business of public health interventions. COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue in our state. It’s no longer a public health crisis,” Lee said in a Tuesday press conference.

Lee pointed out everyone over age 16 can get a COVID-19 vaccine in every county, including walk-up options at health departments. 

The governor retired voluntary Tennessee Pledge business guidelines he issued last year when the pandemic struck. The state hasn’t placed restrictions on businesses in 89 counties with state-run health departments in several months. 

The state Department of Health reported 530 new cases of COVID-19 since Monday, hitting a total of 843,059 cases with 12,152 deaths since last year, including six in the last 24 hours. Hospitalizations are down eight to 785 since Monday.