Johnson City and Washington Co. leaders announce “Safer at Home” orders

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TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — About the same time Gov. Bill Lee announced measures to implement “Safer at Home” guidelines across the state as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, several local governments announced “safer at home” ordinances.

FULL LIST: Local officials issue ‘Safer at Home’ orders

“We have evidence now of community spread so we have people that have coronavirus in our area that have not traveled out of our area,” said Northeast Tennessee Regional Health Director David Kirschke at Monday’s press conference.

Johnson City and Washington County both declared a local emergency, with Johnson City’s order taking effect March 31 at 12:01 a.m., and Washington County’s directive launching April 1 at 12:01 a.m.

“I think it’s time for us to take action. We’re doing this at the right time,” said Dr. Jonathan Moorman, ETSU Health’s chief of infectious disease, who is also on Gov. Lee’s Coronavirus Task Force. “We need the citizens to help us by being very careful, taking responsibility for their actions, following the guidelines that were outlined by our mayors.”

These orders both involve closing all non-essential businesses, and they define what sets an essential business apart from a non-essential business.

News Channel 11’s Anslee Daniel spoke to Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, who said that this call of action stemmed from the need to work together with local health officials after the discovery of community spread in the Tri-Cities.

“We’re trying to coordinate region-wide so we’re all in the same place and try to minimize the confusion that we can,” Brock said. “All of our elected leaders have come together, working with our health departments, other advisers to help us kind of map through this.”

Washington County Mayor Grandy told News Channel 11 that it was time to take action to slow the spread of COVID-19 within the region.

“We needed to step up our game in trying to help people understand how critical the social distancing is and how critical their behavior is to tamper down this virus spread in our community,” Grandy said.

During these ordinances- you can still go to places of essential business- like the grocery store, the pharmacy, doctor, and bank. You can also still order delivery, take-out or curbside from restaurants.

“It’s fine to go to the parks and to the trails and walk but keep your social distance,” said Brock.

The city of Johnson City will be stepping up patrol in places like parks but officers will not be out policing streets…however violations could result in a misdemeanor charge.

“We are trying to approach this not so much from an enforcement perspective but from a helpful perspective on how we can all come together to stop the spread of this disease and hopefully there won’t be a whole lot of enforcement required,” said City Manager Pete Peterson.

Local governments can enact emergency declarations for seven days. They then have to renew the declaration and all indications are that will happen.

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