Tennessee Gov. Lee ends authorization for local mask mandates in 89 counties

File photo by Tim Barber/ Gov. Bill Lee talks to the media.

NASHVILLE - Declaring that the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a health crisis but a "managed public health issue," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced the end of any statewide public health restrictions as well as the revocation of authority for local leaders to impose mask mandates in 89 counties whose health departments he controls.

"After more than a year of public-led health interventions, we're in a different season," the governor told reporters, adding it is "time to shift our focus now more toward recovery and not restrictions."

The lifting of restrictions comes Wednesday.

Hamilton County and five other counties with locally run health departments can continue mask requirements. But Hamilton County's mask mandate is already expected to expire Thursday under plans announced last month by county Mayor Jim Coppinger.

Coppinger told reporters Tuesday that "our intent was to lift the mask mandate on the 29th, so really there wasn't anything there that impacted us as far as going forward [with] what we were going to do."