social distancing

Lee lifts COVID-19 restrictions in most counties, leaves mask requirement in hands of mayors

Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday he is lifting all pandemic-related restrictions on businesses in 89 of 95 Tennessee counties, but will continue to leave it to mayors to decide whether impose local mask mandates.

The governor said it will remain up to the six counties with their own independent health departments (Shelby, Davidson, Knox, Hamilton, Sullivan, and Madison) to craft their own rules, but urged them to also quickly rescind restrictions.

Tennessee ranked 13th in the country with about 287 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks, according to Associated Press data. Nearly 2,400 Tennesseans have died from virus-related causes.

Gallery: Back in session, though some distance more than others

The Senate convenes on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee General Assembly has officially returned into session after a 75-day hiatus during the coronavirus outbreak.

The House GOP held a caucus meeting on Monday afternoon in which a small minority of members wore masks. Some vigorously shook hands and joked that the weekend protests around the state indicate that social distancing is no longer important.

The Senate spaced desks in the chamber to provide maximum distance between the members. The House installed plexiglass shields between lawmakers’ seats.

Here are some photos of Monday’s proceedings:

House members are divided by plexiglas shields on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

 

House Speaker Cameron Sexton addresses the House Republican Caucus on  June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally presides over a floor session on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The House holds a floor session on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Curtis Halford, center, attends a floor session June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Reps. Matthew Hill and William Lamberth, standing right, confer during a floors sesion on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Jerry Sexton attends a House floor session on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. David Hawk, left, confers with Rep. Kent Calfee on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Speaker Cameron Sexton presides over a floor session on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

 

 

A look at preparations for Tennessee lawmakers’ return amid the coronavirus pandemic

The state House and Senate are still at odds about the scope of the upcoming return into session, but that’s not stopping them from getting the Cordell Hull Building prepped for lawmakers’ return.

Here’s a look at some of the changes being made to the legislative office complex:

Plexiglass barriers have been installed in the main House committee room on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Signs remind visitors to keep a six-foot distance outside the elevator bank in the Cordell Hull Building on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Taped arrows show the path to the cafeteria in the Cordell Hull Building on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Audience seats are covered and witness and member chairs are separated in the main Senate committee room on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Plexiglass barriers were being installed in the main House committee room on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Plexiglass slides can be pulled back to shield lawmakers when they are sitting in the committee room, as seen on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A bench in the entryway of the Cordell Hull Building is taped off on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Audience seats are covered and witness and member chairs are separated in the main Senate committee room on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A middle urinal is taped off in the Cordell Hull Building in the interest of social distancing on May 19, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee to allow large attractions to reopen, lift limits on restaurants and stores

Large Tennessee attractions can start reopening next Friday, while restaurants and retail stores will no longer have to limit their capacity as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

The attractions in question include racetracks, amusement parks, waterparks, theaters, museums, and auditoriums. The announcement comes a day after NASCAR announced plans to hold a race at Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend without any fans present.

Here’s the full release from the governor’s office:

Nashville, Tenn. – As Tennessee continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the state’s Economic Recovery Group announced today it will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and retail to instead focus on social distancing best practices effective May 22 and issue guidelines to facilitate the safe reopening of larger, non-contact attractions on or after May 22. New Tennessee Pledge guidelines will be released early next week. Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with State and local health departments.

“Tennesseans have worked incredibly hard to do their part and help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our state can begin to reopen. Thanks to their continued efforts, we’re able to allow restaurants and retail businesses to operate at greater capacity and large attractions to open in a safe and thoughtful way,” said Governor Bill Lee. “Our state continues to see downward trends in case growth and meets the White House criteria for a phased reopening. This progress has been hard-won, and we can build upon it by reopening while also maintaining common-sense safety measures like mask-wearing and good hygiene. By taking the Tennessee Pledge, our businesses can reopen in a way that protects the health of their customers and employees, and protects the livelihoods of hard-working Tennesseans.”

The new Large Attractions guidance applies to those businesses that can effectively practice social distancing with strong measures to protect both employees and customers, including racetracks, amusement parks, waterparks, theaters and dinner theaters, auditoriums, large museums and more. Restrictions on social gatherings of more than 10 people remain in place for the time being. Updates to Restaurant Guidance will include a lift on capacity restrictions, allowing for increased service as long as social distancing guidelines are adhered to, including 6 feet between tables. 

The updated guidelines come as Tennessee continues to meet the White House state gating criteria for phased reopening. The gating criteria include:

  • Symptoms
    • Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period; AND
    • Downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic (CLI) cases reported within a 14-day period
  • Cases
    • Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period; OR
    • Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)
  • Hospitals
    • Treat all patients without crisis care; AND
    • Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing

 

Hospital capacity remains sufficient to meet the needs of patients, while the state continues to meet the goal of testing 2 percent of the population per month.

The Economic Recovery Group (ERG), composed of 30 leaders from the public and private sector, is crafting guidance to assist businesses in a safe reopening. The industry representatives participating in the ERG collectively represent over 140,000 Tennessee businesses that employ over 2.5M Tennesseans. 

Not big on social graces: Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood film ‘stay apart’ video

A release from Gov. Bill Lee’s office:

Nashville, Tenn. — Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks are the latest talent joining forces with the State of Tennessee “Do your part, stay apart” public service announcement campaign urging Tennesseans to continue safe habits as Tennessee communities gradually reopen.

Commending Tennesseans for “stepping up” in their role to stay home, limit the transmission of COVID-19 and save lives, as Tennessee slowly reopens community life they encourage citizens to “keep it going, to be smart, and to be careful and be diligent.. . . stay smart, stay strong, stay Tennessee strong.”

The video can be viewed here.

Over the past month, the State of Tennessee “Do your part, stay apart” public service announcement campaign involving influential Tennesseans in sports and entertainment reached millions of Tennesseans with the urgent message to adopt preventive health measures and slow the spread of COVID-19.

The campaign registered nearly 20 million impressions across social media, digital and outdoor advertising, broadcast television, radio and newsprint platforms. Public outreach was strategic to the state’s efforts to impact Tennesseans’ attention to the seriousness of coronavirus and to encourage stay-at-home and social distancing behaviors to limit the spread of COVID-19 and help move Tennessee toward a gradual reopening.

“From the moment Tennessee declared a state of emergency it has been our priority to get the attention of all Tennesseans to take this threat seriously so that together we can slow the spread of coronavirus and keep our state healthy,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “Our talented community of artists, athletes, leaders and organizations stepped up to get the word out about staying safe during this pandemic. Maria and I thank them all and are grateful for their willingness to lend a hand.”

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Lee to extend stay-at-home order through end of April, start phasing in economic activity in May

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is extending his statewide stay-at-home order through the end of the month, with plans to phase out the economic shutdown in May.

Lee said social distancing will need to continue in public even as the economic shutdown is phased out beginning in May. He acknowledged that “some discomfort” will be involved over the middle term.

“Beginning in May, we will begin a phased reboot of our economy,” Lee said. “Between now and then we will create industry-specific guidance so that businesses can be fully prepared to operate safely and to protect their employees.”

Lee orders statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 and on dine-in restaurants, bars

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has issued a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people and  ordered all restaurants be limited only to drive-thru or takeout service.

Restaurants that serve alcohol will be allowed to sell alcohol for off-premise consumption under the oder.  Gyms and fitness centers will also be ordered closed.

The executive order runs from Monday through April 6.

Meanwhile, Nashville Mayor John Cooper has issued a “Safer at Home” policy for the city that requires all non-essential businesses to close their doors. As of Sunday morning, Nashville had 179 residents who had contracted COVID-19, with those between ages 18 and 49 making up nearly 70% of the cases.

Under guidance issued by the Metro Nashville Department of Public Health:

YOU CAN … 

  • Go to the grocery, convenience or warehouse store
  • Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities
  • Go to medical appointments (check with your doctor or provider first)
  • Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery or drive-thru
  • Care for or support a friend or family member
  • Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog and be in nature for exercise — just keep at least six feet between you and others.
  • Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian if necessary
  • Help someone to get necessary supplies
  • Receive deliveries from any business which delivers

YOU SHOULD NOT … 

  • Go to work unless you are providing essential services as defined by this Order
  • Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need
  • Maintain less than 6 feet of distance from others when you go out
  • Visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility or other residential care facility, except for limited exceptions as provided on the facility websites.

Is this Order mandatory? What happens if I don’t comply?

Yes. This is a legally enforceable order.

The governor’s full release is after the jump.

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Day 1 of the ‘coronasession’ in pictures

Lawmakers attend a House floor session in Nashville on March 16, 2020. Watching from the gallery are, from left, Reps. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville), Bob Freeman (D-Nashville), and Bill Beck (D-Nashville). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here are some images from the first day of what has been dubbed the “coronasession.”

Gov. Bill Lee and aides arrive for a press conference on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Reporters practice social distancing during Gov. Bill Lee’s press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) watches a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic from the House gallery in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) attends a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

From right, Reps. Kirk Haston (R-Lobelville), Mary Littleton (R-Dickson), Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport), and Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) attend a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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