Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced today that the majority of businesses across Tennessee will be allowed to reopen on May 1.
The announcement comes after positive signs of Tennesseans flattening the curve and amid pressure to reopen the economy. Demonstrators rallied outside the Tennessee State Capitol over the weekend, but it also comes as other Republican-led states are planning to ease stay-at-home restrictions, including Ohio, North Dakota and Indiana.
Lee’s announcement does not include Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan counties, each of which has its own health department. Lee says the state will be working with them to set their own schedules.
He says state parks will open as soon as Friday, and that residents can expect some businesses to resume operations next Monday.
Lee had already expressed an interest in lifting his stay-at-home order sometime in May. Now he says there is strong evidence social distancing is working.
“For 17 consecutive days in Tennessee, we have seen only single-digit percentage increases in the number of cases in our state,” said Lee. “Our hospitalization rate has consistently remained lower than national averages.”
At a separate press conference earlier in the day, Nashville health leaders expressed concern about a spike in cases over the weekend, but Gov. Lee says the state has made promising progress over all. The governor’s office is currently working with major city Tennessee mayors and local health departments to plan the reopening of those counties.
“While I am not extending the safer-at-home order past the end of April, we are working directly with our major metropolitan areas to ensure they are in a position to reopen as soon and safely as possible,” said Lee. “Social distancing works, and as we open up our economy it will be more important than ever that we keep social distancing as lives and livelihoods depend on it.”