Bill Lee - State of the State - 2019

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State Address Monday, March 4, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The governor’s office announced Tennessee will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and shops and instead focus on social distancing best practices. 

The announcement from the Tennessee's Economic Recovery Group on Friday is for 89 of the state's 95 counties and the next phase of reopening will go into effect on May 22.

According to a release, the capacity restrictions and guidelines will be issued to facilitate the safe reopening of larger, non-contact attractions on or after May 22. Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan counties may continue following individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with state and local health departments. 

Large attraction guidance applies to businesses that are able to "practice social distancing with strong measures to protect employees and customers." This includes the following attractions: 

  • race tracks
  • amusement parks
  • water parks
  • theaters
  • dinner theaters
  • auditoriums
  • large museums 

Restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people remain in effect for the time being. 

Updates to restaurant guidance will include a lift on capacity restrictions which will allow for increased service as long as social distancing guidelines are followed, including keeping tables six feet apart. 

Gov. Bill Lee said Tennesseans have worked to "slow the spread of COVID-19."

“We’re able to allow restaurants and retail businesses to operate at greater capacity and large attractions to open in a safe and thoughtful way,” Lee said in a statement on Friday. “Our state continues to see downward trends in case growth and meets the White House criteria for a phased reopening. This progress has been hard-won, and we can build upon it by reopening while also maintaining common-sense safety measures like mask-wearing and good hygiene. By taking the Tennessee Pledge, our businesses can reopen in a way that protects the health of their customers and employees, and protects the livelihoods of hard-working Tennesseans.”

The governor's office said these updated guidelines "come as the state continues to meet the White House state gating criteria for phased reopening." This criteria includes:

  • Symptoms
    • Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period; AND
    • Downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic (CLI) cases reported within a 14-day period
  • Cases
    • Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period; OR
    • Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)
  • Hospitals
    • Treat all patients without crisis care; AND
    • Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing

Hospital capacity remains efficient in order to meet the needs of patients. Tennessee continues to meet its goal of testing two percent of the population per month. 

The Economic Recovery Group is working on guidance to help businesses safely reopen. More information on the Economic Recovery Group can be found here. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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WSMV Digital Content Producer

A New York City native and a graduate of the Mizzou School of Journalism, Ethan joined the WSMV Digital Team in June 2019. Send him story ideas, food recommendations and sports topics to and follow him on Twitter @EthanIllers_TV!

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