Gov. Bill Lee provides guidance for reopening Tennessee houses of worship after COVID-19 closures

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Flanked by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, right, and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, Gov. Bill Lee, center, speaks during a news conference at Wilson Air Center on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Gov. Bill Lee's office released guidance Friday afternoon for reopening Tennessee's houses of worship as the state begins the process of lifting its stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus.

"As we look to reopen our economy in a safe fashion, the decision on in-person gatherings will be up to each individual faith community," reads a statement from the governor. "We're confident in their ability to determine the proper time and how to incorporate these guidelines to worship in a way that protects the health of their congregation."

The guidelines, which were compiled by the governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, include:

- A phased approach to resuming in-person gatherings is recommended. Vulnerable populations (everyone 65 years and older, people with disabilities, people with serious respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, people who are immunocompromised, and others) and children's activities/nursery programs should not gather in person until a later time.