NASHVILLE, TN -- Gov. Bill Lee announced he has signed an executive order to allow groups of up to 50 people to gather in a safe way.

He made the executive order announcement during a COVID-19 update Thursday.

He said while larger groups may start gathering, social distancing remains important. Larger attractions will be able to reopen as long as they are in compliance with the Tennessee Pledge.

Lee said the new executive order will allow the economy to continue expanding following all of the restrictions put into place when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the state.

Lee announced schools can expect to reopen in the fall for in-person classes. Guidelines for reopening schools will be released in the coming days, Lee said.

In addition, Lee said there's a PBS partnership with Tennessee to provide instructional information for students all summer long.

Lee praised the graduating class of 2020, saying this year's graduates are celebrating in a different way due to the coronavirus. He asked people to share messages of encouragement with recent graduates to help them through this tough time.

Lee also announced the state's COVID-19 testing strategy. He said Tennessee remains committed to expanding testing capacity. He said 177,000 tests were conducted in the first 21 days of May. The state's goal is to test 3% of the population by the end of the month.

As part of the state's expanded testing, all state inmates have been tested and all veterans homes have been tested. The state is working on testing at all long-term care facilities.

Lee said anyone with doubts on whether they may have COVID-19 needs to go get a test. He said they are free and available at all health departments in Tennessee.

Tennessee is reporting a total of 18,961 cases of COVID-19 across the state and 313 coronavirus-related deaths. Lee said 12,191 have recovered.