NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Republican lawmakers are close to ending a number of COVID-19 mandates after a Special Session last week.
This comes despite businesses and doctors speaking out against the proposed laws, even up to the last minute of legislative debate.
The GOP supermajority passed the bills in the dead of night October 30th. Now doctors are speaking out as some public health mitigation strategies are close to being done with here in Tennessee.
Despite the sweeping COVID bills targeting mask and vaccine mandates, State health commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, who could be granted broader authority, declined to answer questions about the bills.
Most government entities, including public schools, cannot require the COVID-19 vaccination or proof of it. However, entertainment venues can still require negative test.
“We all want freedom from COVID, but making laws that are anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-science, is just, it’s a huge step backwards for our state,” said Dr. Amy Gordon Bono, a Primary Care Internal Medicine Physician.
Dr. Bono was at the State Capitol as parts of the bills were debated. She said the legislation will make responding to COVID more difficult.
Under the bills, masks cannot be required unless 1,000 out of 100,000 residents are COVID positive.
“Once your infection rate starts going forward at that high level, it’s really hard to stop it,” Bono said. “Much like this legislation was a freight train being rammed through, COVID can certainly do the same.”
However, private prisons, businesses, and schools can require masks.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said in addition to vaccinations you can continue to stay protected amid uncertainty.
“In crowds indoors or outdoors wearing the masks, good hand hygiene, staying away from people who are coughing and sneezing, those are the sorts of things that will protect you and your family,” Schaffner said.
The Governor’s emergency powers could also be limited to 45 days.
“Governor Lee you need to have every available tool in your tool belt to fight COVID, and the legislature has now taken many of those tools away from you,” said Dr. Bono.
The Governor will be evaluating the bills before he signs or vetoes the legislation.
However, he could allow the bill to become law without his signature after ten days.