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State lawmaker Jeremy Faison says precautions in place as GOP leaders prepare to meet, socialize

State House Republicans are set to gather for several days at Pickwick Landing State Park.

East Tennessee Republican lawmaker Jeremy Faison says he's taken steps to ensure a GOP caucus that starts Thursday at a state park is conducted with virus safety precautions in place.

"I have been working with our state’s top health official, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, and officials at Pickwick Landing State Park to make sure we are following the maximum safety guidelines suggested by the Centers for Disease Control," Faison, the House Republican Caucus chair, said Wednesday in a statement to WBIR.

Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday he planned to attend the party caucus at the park in Hardin County near the Mississippi state line. Lee said he felt comfortable the event would be properly distanced to reduce exposure.

Dr. Piercey also will make an appearance, according to department spokeswoman Shelley Walker.

The caucus is set as the state sees record numbers of deaths, positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. A group of Tennessee doctors on Wednesday called on leaders to adopt a statewide mask mandate, something elected officials including Lee have consistently resisted. 

"This event has been very strategically and thoughtfully planned out for months to allay any potential health risks and to ensure everyone stays safe," Faison's statement reads.

Faison, who represents a House district in Cocke County, said there'll be "strict" social distancing at the park gatherings and "ample" seating so people could spread out.

The House Caucus is not open to the public.

"Rooms will be well-ventilated and sanitized between use. Many of the events and meetings will be held outdoors," Faison's statement reads.

"Masks and sanitizer will be provided for everyone. We presented our safety plan to Dr. Piercey, and she is satisfied with the precautions we are taking to minimize close contact.”

Tennessee is one of 14 states heading into the holiday season without a statewide mask mandate, the Associated Press reports.