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Gov. Lee issues 'safer at home' order for all of Tennessee

Lee said Executive Order 22 is not a mandated shelter in place order, but a strong urging to stay home when at all possible.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has issued a "safer at home" order for the entire state.

That means all non-essential businesses will need to close and everyone is encouraged to stay at home whenever possible.

Cities like Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis have already issued similar orders, and physicians have been calling for Lee to do the same.

More than a week ago, more than 600 physicians signed a letter asking the governor to order a shelter in place across the state to prevent a "disastrous" surge in cases. 

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Instead, Gov. Lee issued an executive order with new restrictions like closing restaurant dining rooms and gyms, but it did not mandate sheltering in place or close all non-essential businesses.

Now he's going further with Executive Order 22.  

"This is not a mandated 'shelter in place' order, because it remains deeply important to me to protect personal liberties," Lee said at a Monday afternoon news briefing. 

He said instead, it was a strong urging to stay home when at all possible.

"We need you to stay home where at all possible. Your habits and your routines will make the difference as we work to swiftly defeat COVID-19," he said. "Work together to establish new habits by ordering takeout, shopping for essentials in normal quantities, and resisting the urge to panic buy."

It includes closing businesses that cannot operate safely during this time, including salons and barbershops, concert venues and indoor recreation facilities.

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The governor's order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. CDT Tuesday and lasts through April 14.

Some specifics of the order include direction for non-essential businesses such as retail shops and in-store restaurants:

"Such businesses or organizations are strongly encouraged to provide delivery, including delivery curbside outside of the business or organization, of online or telephone orders, to the greatest extent practicable, and persons are encouraged to use any such options to support such businesses during this emergency."

It continues: "Even though essential activity and essential services are permitted under this Order, all persons are strongly encouraged to limit to the greatest extent possible the frequency of engaging in essential activity or essential services. For example, all persons are strongly encouraged, among other things, to use thoughtful planning, careful coordination, and consideration of others when engaging in essential activity or essential services in order to minimize the need and frequency for leaving their place of residence or property. When engaged in essential activity or essential services, persons shall at all times follow the Health Guidelines to the greatest extent practicable."

The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed 1,834 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, March 30, an increase of 297 cases over the day before. There have been 13 reported deaths.

So far, cases have been reported in 77 of Tennessee's 95 counties. Lee said half of the state was already under some sort of stay at home order, particularly in the more urban areas.

Lee said he made the decision to expand the order state-wide out of fear that coronavirus would start spreading in our rural communities.

He hesitated, he said, because he wanted Tennessee to be a state where people can maintain their personal liberties.

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A grassroots group called Protect My Care that aims to protect healthcare for Tennesseans said in a press release that the order doesn't go far enough.

"It has been 11 days and 12 deaths since more than 2,000 doctors and health care workers sent a letter to Gov. Bill Lee pleading for him to issue a stay-at-home order. Health experts have deemed a statewide order essential if Tennessee is going to save lives by mitigating the strain on hospitals and medical equipment supplies," the release said.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, who imposed a safer-at-home directive earlier this month said she supposed Lee.

"These orders, which include a Safer at Home measure, are in line with our local efforts that aim to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the stress on our medical facilities. Making these decisions could ultimately save lives and we all have the responsibility and the power to do our part during this pandemic," a news release from her stated.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs applauded Lee's move.

"Gov. Lee and I share a political philosophy in that we both want to protect the health of our citizens," he said in a news release. "As I stated a few weeks ago, I have two jobs. One is to ensure public safety and the health of the people of Knox County. The other is to maintain my oath to the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee and protect the civil liberties and the rights of the people of Knox County. I intend on doing both.


State Health Director Dr. Lisa Piercey also talked Monday about a Gallatin nursing home in which dozens of people have been sickened.

She didn't have an exact number of people who have died, although she said she'd seen media report that two people had died.

Piercey said 74 residents and 33 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. She said she knew of "dozens" of hospitalizations.

The center was evacuated over the weekend.

"Our hope and plan is for residents to be able to return to the facility who are medically appropriate in the next 48 to 72 hours," she said.

Piercey also said so far the state is in good shape in terms of the availability of ventilators. About 67 percent of the ventilators now available in the state are not being used.

"We feel pretty comfortable about our ventilator situation," she said.

Lee said there are now 33 remote assessment sites in the state to gather samples for virus testing.

"We are aggressively pursuing testing," he said.

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According to the governor's order, "essential services" including doing  activities essential to a person's health and safety "or the health and safety of family or household members, persons who are unable or should not leave their home, or pets, including, but not limited to, seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies or assistance, obtaining medication, obtaining non-elective medical care or treatment or other similar vital services, or visiting a health care professional."

It also includes getting "necessary services or supplies for persons and their family or household members, persons who are unable or should not leave their home, or pets or delivering those services or supplies to others, including, but not limited to, groceries and food, household consumer products, supplies required to work from home, automobile supplies (including dealers, parts, supplies, repair, and maintenance), and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences."

You can read the full order here.

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