Tennessee latest state to end mask mandates & Covid restrictions as gov announces he is ‘removing authority from local officials’
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee is facing blowback after announcing an end to restrictions on businesses in his state and says local health departments will not have the authority to mandate masks.
In Tuesday tweets, Lee said Covid-19 is “no longer a health emergency” in Tennessee thanks to widely available vaccines against the virus.
“We have never had a statewide mask mandate and I am removing authority from local officials to issue mask requirements,” he tweeted, adding that remaining mask mandates and business restrictions should be lifted completely by 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.— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) April 27, 2021
Lee also announced an end to ‘The Tennessee Pledge,’ a set of guidelines released for businesses to take precautions during the pandemic. The ‘Pledge’ was removed from the state government website on Tuesday. While the recommendations were never mandatory, the governor said retiring the “government playbook” helps send a “clear message” about Covid restrictions ending in the state.
Tennessee joins multiple other states such as Texas that have rolled back their Covid-19 restrictions. Some have criticized the reopenings as premature, and Lee’s announcement was no different as many on social media blasted the governor as “unfit” for office and accused him of “pretending” Covid-19 is no longer an emergency.
I remember getting texts from my mom about community members dying less than six months ago when my hospital was at full capacity, had no mask mandates, and no social distancing guidelines. Thanks for literally nothing as TN has the fourth lowest vaccination rate. https://t.co/CmP9pW73sg— Caroline Brawley (@c_brawley) April 27, 2021
Democrats within the state have pointed out that Tennessee is tracking behind most states in vaccine distribution to criticize Lee’s announcement.
Tennessee is 47th out of 50 states for Covid-19 vaccinations. Under Gov. Bill Lee, Tennessee saw the 4th worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation per person and worst in the South. More than 12,100 Tennesseans have died from Covid, including 83 this past week.— TN Senate Democrats (@TNSenateDems) April 27, 2021
Others meanwhile celebrated the reopening of the state.
In a separate Tuesday announcement, the Democrat mayor of Tennessee's largest and most popular city, Nashville, announced an end to capacity limits by May 14 in the city, but also said indoor mask mandates would remain in effect, not giving a clear answer as to when he would order those to be completely lifted.
As of today, 40% of Davidson County’s total population has received a vaccine. The vaccine is the best protection for your health and Nashville overall. Please encourage your family friends to get vaccinated today! https://t.co/wTavpK8Faepic.twitter.com/4bb4VxOELx— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) April 27, 2021
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