Tennessee legislature rolls back some COVID-19 protections

Tennessee legislature rolls back some COVID-19 protections
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During a special session that stretched into early Saturday morning, the Tennessee legislature approved a rollback on some COVID-19 protections while agreeing to allow the exception for others.

The Tennessee legislature passed a measure that would only allow mandating masks in certain situations. If a county reaches a rolling 14-day average of at least 1,000 cases per 100,000 people, public schools and government entities would be allowed to mandate masks, the Tennessean reported. No county has yet reached that threshold.

Correctional facilities and certain businesses such as private schools can still require masks, however. Airport authorities, government contractors, long-term care facilities and certain other businesses can also require masks.  

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Under the measures passed, people would also be able to collect unemployment if they left their job due to a COVID-19 vaccine requirement, according to the Tennessean.

Certain entities like health care providers that participate in Medicaid and Medicare programs and government contractors are allowed to require vaccines for their workers. Public universities that receive money from the government and successfully argue that they could lose out on federal funding can also require masks and vaccines.

The moves come as companies such as Ford Motor Co. raised their concerns over legislative actions that would negatively impact their businesses, the Tennessean noted.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) did not say immediately what measures he would support, but he noted each piece was being evaluated.

“I commend members of the General Assembly for working to address the Biden Administration's overreach into our state, our workforce, & our schools. We are evaluating each piece of legislation to ensure we push back on harmful federal policies & do right by Tennesseans,” Lee said Saturday in a tweet.