Gov. Lee extends Tennessee state of emergency through end of February

Published 4:10 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2020

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Gov. Bill Lee has extended a state of emergency in Tennessee through the end of February, allowing county mayors to continue implementing local mask mandates and keeping in place other temporary arrangements due to COVID-19.
Lee signed a new executive order to do so on Tuesday, one that will take effect Dec. 29 until Feb. 27 — the longest amount of time he can extend a state of emergency at once.
Tennessee in the last week has become one of the worst hotspots in the nation for the coronavirus, having the number of infections per capita in recent days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
Governments can continue to hold electronic meetings, the National Guard will still be authorized to work in hospitals, and county mayors can continue to enact mask-wearing requirements, among provisions in Executive Order 73.
Local mask mandates can’t, however, require that children under 12 wear masks, or that masks be worn in a person’s home, car, church or voting site, among other exceptions Lee says counties must allow.
Lee has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate, instead encouraging county mayors to do so themselves. 
Tennesseans can continue to purchase alcohol to-go at restaurants under the renewed order.
It also requires that those testing positive for COVID-19 stay at home except to receive medical care, and employers cannot allow an employee who tested positive to show up for work until after fulfilling CDC guidelines for isolation.
A number of other regulations, many of which pertain to the medical industry, will continue to be waived. 
The governor’s emergency authority continues to be a source of contention in the Tennessee General Assembly. Republican legislators who have convened in recent months to study and discuss the state’s law on emergency power have said they do not plan to try to dial back the governor’s emergency powers while Lee is in office, but will likely do so in a way that curbs it for future governors.

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