Governor Bill Lee Orders Tennessee Residents to Stay Home, Except for Essential Business

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Monday issued an executive order telling state residents to stay home unless they are engaging in essential activities.

According to the order, businesses or organizations that do not perform essential services cannot remain open for public access. Lee’s order encourages those businesses to provide delivery, including curbside delivery, to the greatest extent possible. Lee also ordered that Tennesseans limit their essential activity to the greatest extent possible.

State officials will enforce the order from 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, Central Standard Time, until 11:59 p.m. Central Time April 14, according to the order.

“More than half of our state is under some form of shelter-at-home orders, especially in our population-dense cities, but I have a particular concern about this situation escalating in our rural communities,” Lee said at a press conference Monday.

Lee also said this is not a mandated shelter-in place-order and that it restricts businesses such as barber shops, salons, and entertainment outfits. Lee said we “must protect our economy while we protect the lives of Tennesseans.”

“It is deeply important to me that we remain a state that protects personal liberties, but it is a strong urging for Tennesseans to stay home when at all possible. I also believe that with personal liberty comes personal responsibility. I have said that I have sought discernment to identify the right decision at the right time for the right place.”

Lee then appealed directly to Tennesseans who can remain home for the next two weeks. He urged them to stay where they reside and to also restrain their activities.

“We need you to do this, to protect the lives of your neighbors and protect the lives of Tennesseans, to protect the well-being of our health care workers and our essential employees and vulnerable populations like the elderly in Tennessee. We need you to stay home when at all possible. Your habits and your routines will make all the difference as we work to swiftly defeat COVID-19,” Lee said.

“We will work together to establish new habits, like safely supporting Tennessee businesses, ordering takeout, or shopping online or shopping for essentials at the grocery (store) in normal quantities and resisting the urge to panic buy. The faster we blunt the surge of this spread the faster we all get to go back to work.”

During the press conference, Lee stood alongside Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Republican Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).

In a statement, McNally said Lee “has been deliberate and careful in his approach.”

“This threat changes from day-to-day, hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute. I appreciate Governor Lee’s ability to remain data-focused and flexible. Today’s order is a big step but a needed one at this time,” McNally said.

“Most population centers in our state are already operating under these conditions. Essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. The most important part of this order is that it sends the message the governor has been sending for many days now in no uncertain terms: stay home and stay apart.”

At the press conference, Lee also asked that the state’s businesses and entrepreneurs “switch production to make lifesaving PPE and medical supplies.”

“We are calling on businesses and entrepreneurs to be part of innovating in the field of health care management as we rapidly scale operations to care for the sick,” Lee said.

Read Executive Order 22:


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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]





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14 Thoughts to “Governor Bill Lee Orders Tennessee Residents to Stay Home, Except for Essential Business”

  1. Pissed Off Nashvillian

    No one shut down the Gay Rights Festival and made them stay home. We know that deadly STDs are spread during these festivals. Why else would Nashville ramp up its free Hepatitis vaccinations just before the festival?

  2. 83ragtop50

    I have an idea.. Governor Lee should resign and stay at home.


    To cover up for the INEPTITUDE in the Tennessee Government, Governor Bill Lee decides to group punished the many (us) with his Executive Order which amount to a form of Marshall Law. FYI: Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civilian functions by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency such as invasion or major disaster, or in an occupied territory. The conditions which led to imposed Executive order was not caused by the people trying to practice good hygiene, social distancing, avoiding crowds . . .etc. It because of the incompetence of the within the State of Tennessee Government. The poor condition within our Health Care Homes is not because of COVID-19 it the lack of tighter controls and enforceable inspections. It because of Webees embedded within the State of Tennessee’s Bureaucracy, these incompetence bureaucrats’ puppets, hide within our government pushing paperwork to look like they are working while waiting for the day until they can retirement. The Tennessee Government is full of highly paid Executive Service personnel (who serve at the pleasure of the governor) who are holdover from previous administrations. These incompetence cronies could not hold a job in the private section. For example, within TDEC Water Resources, there are personnel within the executive service that have been there for many years drawing a salary with NO direct reports same goes for the Health Department. While administrations come and go the We Bee’s will be here when you come and webees here when you leave. Bill Lee clean your own house up before you tell us how live in ours.

    1. Ron Welch

      Martial law is UNLAWFUL in Tennessee according to the Tennessee Constitution Declaration of Rights, Article I, Section 25:

      That no citizen of this state, except such as are employed in the army of the United States, or militia in actual service, shall be subjected to punishment under the martial or military law. at martial law, in the sense of the unrestricted power of military o cers, or others, to dispose of the persons, liberties or property of the citizen, is inconsistent with the principles of free government, and is not confided to any department of the government of this state.

  4. William Delzell

    Why is the Governor’s State Attorney General suing to eliminate Obama Care when the average Tennessean needs it to pay their medical expenses? Does the good Attorney General want the average Tennesseans whether white or non-white to die so that just a few rich white families like Slater’s own with their own health care will have Tennessee to themselves?

    1. 83ragtop50

      Because Obamacare is a dastardly plan to keep people from securing the health insurance they desire. Obama lied when he said it was about covering the uninsured and lowering premiums. It did neither. Just another action to take away our freedoms.

      1. Ron Welch

        At least Congress made Obamacare “pro choice”. I do agree that “healthcare is a choice” which would be included as one of many non-enumerated fights in the 9th Amendment. As such, it is a matter of individual freedom and not subject to any government mandate. Already, we hear some authoritarian politicians advocating mandatory vaccinations in violation of the 4th Amendment right to be “secure in our persons”. That is indeed chilling!

        1. Ron Welch

          Correction: “healthcare is a right”, a non-enumerated right.

    2. Dee

      What a racist comment!! Why does it have to be a few rich white instead of a few rich families?

  5. Ron Welch

    Governor Lee missed an opportunity to go above and beyond all of his contemporaries in officialdom by strongly encouraging Tennesseans to strengthen their immune systems by applying easily available nutritional information which is a critical factor in staying healthy. Otherwise, there is willful ignorance, studied indifference or even outright disdain for this aspect by our supposed leadership and healthcare experts. Astonishing!

  6. Mary

    A complete 180 of what he said on the radio yesterday morning. hmmmm

  7. Kevin

    We have left our house exactly once in the last 14 days, to go out and get groceries. I get the idea of “social distancing.” I don’t need or want government “mandating” that I stay home!

    Additionally, all these mandates are doing is to set the stage for when more tyrannical regimes are in power. And it will happen! Then, they will be able to claim “past practice” when they come in and seize the vestiges of our God-given freedoms.

    Our form of government was constructed to protect our freedoms, not restrict them!

    But what exactly is a “non-essential” business? Wonder how many “non-essential” government employees are still getting paychecks, while they sit at home? Maybe citizens should start mandating that “non-essential” government employees stay home, permanently!

  8. Steve Allen

    In the county we live, people have been practicing these “guidelines” for the last few days. There has even been a very noticeable lack chatter on the local law enforcement radio frequencies in response to criminal activity. This indicates to me that conservative, religious, common sense Tennesseans have been practicing these guidelines before they were stated by Governor Lee.

    1. Horatio Bunce

      Still zero positive in my county. Not sure how they are going to flatten that curve.