Gov. Lee to order Tennesseans to stay home unless carrying out ‘essential activities’

Local Coronavirus Coverage

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Gov. Bill Lee will sign an order requiring Tennesseans to stay home unless they are carrying out “essential activities.”

The governor’s office says the order comes as data shows increased activity among citizens, citing cell phone data from Unacast and traffic data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

“Over the last few weeks, we have seen decreases in movement around the state as Tennesseans socially distance and stay at home,” said Gov. Lee in a news release. “However, in recent days we have seen data indicating that movement may be increasing and we must get these numbers trending back down. I have updated my previous executive order to clearly require that Tennesseans stay at home unless they are carrying out essential activities.”

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On Monday, Lee announced measures to implement “Safer at Home” guidelines across the state but stopped short of issuing a mandatory shelter-in-place order.

According to the governor, the data shows a drop-off in vehicle movement from March 13 to 19, but indicates increased travel since Monday.

“April stands to be a very tough month for our state,” Lee said during his daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday. “We need you to understand that staying home isn’t’ an option. It’s a requirement for the swift defeat of COVID-19 in Tennessee.”

The governor said businesses will be given an opportunity to comply with the order before further enforcement action is taken. Law enforcement agencies across the state have been given the OK to enforce the order, but have been given discretion on how to enforce it according to Lee.

Lee told News Channel 11’s Anslee Daniel that citizens should report non-compliant businesses to local law enforcement.

The executive order will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on April 14.

Lee also announced that FEMA has approved the state’s major disaster declaration, which will accelerate efforts with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase hospital bed capacity in the state ahead of an expected surge of coronavirus cases. Officials are assessing sites across Tennessee to be used as alternative healthcare facilities. The governor mentioned the Music City Center in Nashville and Knoxville Expo Center as sites that will be used to treat COVID-19 patients.

The governor again encouraged Tennesseans to avoid panic buying, saying that the supply chain is “strong” and citizens should maintain normal shopping habits.

This is a developing story. Look for updates on WJHL.com.

Continuing coverage of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

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