Businesses, such as restaurants and shops, have had capacity limits and other restrictions in place to help maintain social distancing. Businesses that had been completely shut down since the start of the pandemic in March began slowly reopening in May.
The restrictions will be lifted in 89 counties, including Williamson County. Restrictions may still stay in place in larger cities and counties, such as Nashville, which has been given the ability to make its own decisions over restrictions and mandates.
“I think that we have taken one of the most targeted approaches to the pandemic in the county eliminating the need for prolonged business closures or extended school closures,” Lee said. “We were one of the last states to shut down and one of the first ones to open up, and it’s very important to me that we take a targeted approach that’s not overreaction, but it is actually a reaction to what’s happening on the ground and that’s been our approach.”
Restrictions will also be lifted on nursing homes to allow family visitations; however, safety measures will remain in place to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus to the elderly, who are a vulnerable population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, said the state may reassess restrictions if positive coronavirus cases spike again.
Lee said the state will also lift guidelines on gatherings in those 89 counties. However, the state will continue to allow individual county mayors to mandate mask usage. Williamson County’s mask mandate expired Aug. 29 and was not renewed.
Lee said the state will make updates to the Tennessee Pledge, the state’s guidelines for businesses that have reopened. Mask use is still encouraged to help slow the spread of the virus, Lee said.
While business restrictions will be lifted, Lee said he would not end Tennessee’s state-of-emergency orders, which provide facilitation for health care capacity and testing, access to telehealth services and allow to-go alcohol sales to continue. The state of emergency has been extended through at least Oct. 30.
“We’ve been under a state of emergency for seven months now,” Lee said. “It’s allowed us to respond more rapidly because of the ability to lift some regulations on health care providers so that we can keep our capacity stable. So, as our national state of emergency continues, I’ll extend [the] Tennessee state of emergency for another 30 days.”