NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday he plans to allow barbershops as well as hair and nail salons to reopen starting in a week.
During a conference call Wednesday morning with state legislators, the Republican governor said that although the personal care services are not allowed to open under his latest Executive Order, No. 30, issued on Tuesday, the order does anticipate changes as his administration seeks to reopen large areas of the Tennessee economy as the state continues battling the coronavirus.
"There will be - I want everyone to know this - there will be changes in the ways we are operating and allowing businesses to open over the next 30 days. Those will be made in accordance with how data shows we should be making those decisions.
"I just want to make sure everyone understands that, particularly because I've had a lot of calls even overnight about salons and barbershops, which we plan to open next Wednesday in the 89 counties which we have jurisdiction over," Lee continued.
The state runs health departments in 89 of the state's 95 counties.
Lee, whose previous executive orders allowed restaurants to reopen for dine-in services on Monday with retail stores permitted to reopen starting Wednesday, said he had planned to make the announcement about barbershops and nail salons on Thursday.
"That's when the guidance [to personal care businesses] will come out," the governor said. "But because of the issuance of the executive order, we're just telling you on this call because I know a lot of your folks have asked particularly about salons and barbershops."
Lee reemphasized that later in the call, telling lawmakers "next week we open up salons and barbershops."
As governor, Lee's orders apply to the 89 state-run county health departments. In the state's six largest counties, including Hamilton County, local health officials call the shots on what can open. That recently led to a conflict between Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, a Republican who is in charge of the local health department and agreed with the governor's decision to begin reopening restaurants, and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, a Democrat who had issued his own order.
But because the local decisions are made by the county health department, Coppinger won out on permitting restaurants to reopen for dine-in services as well as Wednesday's decision to allow retail establishments that have been considered "non-essential" businesses to reopen their doors.
During the conference call, state officials discussed strides they are making in areas such as testing for the potential deadly COVID-19.
Lee pointed to a Times Free Press article published Wednesday showing Tennessee is testing more people than any its neighboring states, including Georgia, and more people per capita than the country as a whole.
"But we can't rest on our laurels," Lee said, adding the additional testing has allowed his administration to have more knowledge on what's happening across the state as he makes decisions to reopen Tennessee's economy. "We have to continue and expand testing."
This is a developing story.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.