Tennessee is giving out free masks to residents. The state hopes it will increase testing.

Tennessee is giving out free masks to residents. The state hopes it will increase testing.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Beginning this week, Tennessee residents can head to their local county health departments to get a free mask.

While they're there, the state hopes even more people will decide to take a free coronavirus test, as well.

Gov. Bill Lee's COVID-19 Unified Command team announced Tuesday that 300,000 cloth face masks are being distributed to health departments in all 95 counties, the first batch of the state's pledged effort to secure 5 million free masks for residents.

The Tennessee Department of Health has since waived requirements that individuals display symptoms in order to receive a free coronavirus test.

Hope Dillard tries on one of the masks she made with her mom and sister to help in the fight against the coronavirus in  Carthage, Tenn. Monday, March 23, 2020.

The state has entered an agreement with Renfro Corp., a North Carolina-based international sock distributor, to "make cloth face masks available to as many Tennesseans as possible," according to a statement from the governor's office.

Lee's office did not immediately respond to a request for cost information on the free mask distribution.

Renfro Corp. is expected to continue making masks for the state beyond this first wave of production.

Based on population, each of the state's county and municipal health departments will receive at least 1,000 masks this week.

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Stuart McWhorter, director of the governor's coronavirus Unified Command, said previously that the state would be working with Amazon on distributing masks to residents.

Gillum Ferguson, the governor's spokesman, said Tuesday that no additional information on the Amazon plan was available.

In a statement, Renfro president and CEO Stan Jewell said the sock company realized in March its "design and manufacturing expertise could be used to provide millions of face masks to communities to help reduce the spread of COVID19."

Bowling alleys, dentists to reopen this week

Lee on Tuesday also announced that Tennessee dentists can resume non-emergency procedures, such as cleanings, on Wednesday.

That's the same day Lee had already declared salons, nail spas, massage and other close-contact businesses can resume operations in 89 of the state's 95 counties.

On Friday, Lee announced at his Tuesday briefing, small-group recreational businesses such as bowling alleys and mini golf courses can also open their doors again.

Restaurants, retail stores and gyms across the state, with the exception of Tennessee's largest counties, were given the green light to resume operations last week at 50% capacity.

Areas like Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville are in counties that have been instructed to determine their own timeline for reopening businesses.

Follow reporter Natalie Allison on Twitter at @natalie_allison.

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Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/06/tennessee-give-free-cloth-masks-residents-health-departments/5174375002/

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