A look at what’s in Tennessee’s far-reaching COVID bill
Sprawling legislation against COVID-19 prevention measures is awaiting Gov. Bill Lee’s decision on whether sign on to efforts to undercut vaccine requirements, mask mandates and more.
Republican lawmakers passed the final bill during the dead of night over the weekend, capping a three-day session called by lawmakers.
Along with the centerpiece bill, lawmakers also voted to eliminate the ability of six independent health departments in large counties to issue their own preventative health orders during a pandemic; allow the attorney general to replace a district attorney in a case in which the prosecutor has refused to enforce certain laws; and offer an option for partisan elections for school boards.
Here is a look at some of the key provisions in the most wide-spanning bill to pass last week.
— A state or local government entity, including schools and school districts, and private businesses would be barred from making anyone show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, setting up a conflict with President Joe Biden’s upcoming rule on requiring vaccinations for many workplaces
— Entertainment venues could continue letting people show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry
— People receiving services in their home could require proof of vaccination for the provider
— Government entities, including public schools, could only require masks when a county has registered at least 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the previous two weeks; the metric must be met every two weeks to continue renewing a mask mandate; religious and medical exemptions must be offered
— Schools that institute a mask mandate must provide N95-equivalent masks for students and staff, and schools would be banned from using state money for any mask requirement
— Exemptions from mask and vaccine limitations would include entities such as airports, paramedics, hospitals and other health care providers, and industries that require masks regardless of COVID-19
— Exemptions to the limitations on mask requirements alone would include private businesses and correctional facilities
— People who are out of a job because they refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine would be assured they are eligible for unemployment benefits, including retroactively
— The state health commissioner would take over authority to create COVID-19 quarantine guidelines, such as when schools and private businesses might need to close temporarily or restrict operations, removing authority from local governments
(IMAGE: ASSOCIATED PRESS)