NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A sweeping COVID restrictions bill is now law. Governor Bill Lee signed the bill on Friday that makes major changes to how the state will allow government bodies and businesses to operate while dealing with COVID-19.
The bill sets a high bar for when schools could require masks – while private schools are exempt. It also makes it unlawful for businesses to require proof of vaccination among other measures.
It was a last attempt by doctors who say plainly the bill is bad. A petition calling on Governor Bill Lee to veto the COVID omnibus bill designed to stop COVID restrictions, led by doctors was signed on to by teachers, clergy members and business owners.
“As a physician, I am concerned this bill will roll back COVID safety measures. Measures we know work like mask mandates,” said Katrina Green, a Nashville Emergency Physician.
The bill takes aim at public schools and businesses, limiting when masks can be required and eliminating vaccine mandates.
“I want him to hear our voices even if it doesn’t change his mind, he needs to know that we know that this bill is wrong,” Dr. Green said.
Earlier in the week Governor Lee confirmed his commitment to sign the bill. Physicians say they have concerns.
“Number one, public health department independence being taken away, hospital COVID visitation protocols being dictated to us by the legislature and – medical and nursing boards will be unable to discipline healthcare professionals that harm patients with COVID misinformation.”
Green added, “I got into medicine because I want to help people and I take my oath to do no harm very seriously, and I worry that this bill will harm people.”
The bill passed with no public input from doctors or medical professionals in the dead of night and has received pushback from businesses, parents and some local school boards.
“I’ve done everything that I could literally, came all the way up to here to the statehouse delivered hand-delivered petitions to the governor — I don’t know what more I could do to convince him that this is a bad idea,” Green said.
“I have spoken with Lt. Gov. McNally and Speaker Sexton and am not signing this bill as it requires significant updates to account for the non-pandemic functions of public health departments,” said Gov. Lee. “We are committed to working together to address these changes during the regular session.”