Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 23 on Thursday that requires Tennesseans to stay home unless they are engaging in essential activities. (emphasis added)
Lee issued an executive order Monday that urged, but didn’t require, residents to stay at home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Under his new order, staying at home isn’t “an option – it’s a requirement for the swift defeat of COVID-19,” said Lee.
The governor said data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation indicated that travel started trending upwards again on March 30 after traffic patterns showed a steep drop-off in vehicle movement between March 13 and 29.
While many Tennesseans have made good faith efforts to remain at home, recent @myTDOT traffic patterns indicate that some citizens are beginning to disregard safer at home measures. This is dangerous, unacceptable, and a threat to lives in our state. pic.twitter.com/fTaljG4U8Z
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) April 2, 2020
“Over the last few weeks, we have seen decreases in movement around the state as Tennesseans socially distance and stay at home,” Lee said in a statement released Thursday.
“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,” he continued.
He said cell-phone data from Unacast also showed that movement of Tennesseans was trending toward pre-COVID-19 levels.
“The month of April stands to be an extremely tough time for our state as we face the potential for a surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Lee. “Every Tennessean must take this seriously, remain at home and ensure we save lives.”
The modified executive order will remain in effect through April 14, Lee’s office said.
The announcement comes after doctors across the state continued to criticize Lee for his handling of the pandemic and demanded he issue a stay-at-home order.
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said in a statement released Thursday that he appreciates the governor’s “ability to adapt to this fluid situation.”
“As the peak of the COVID crisis approaches, it is more important than ever that we flatten the curve and prevent a run on needed resources. Gov. Lee has consistently been committed to a data-focused approach and he has proven it again today,” he said.
“The numbers don’t lie and it is clear at this moment a stronger mandate is needed. He is doing everything in his power to both save lives and minimize economic disruption. I applaud his efforts. I support this order. And I implore all Tennesseans to stay at home and stay apart.”
As of Thursday afternoon, Tennessee had 2,845 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 263 hospitalizations, and 32 deaths, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said in a statement that he fully supports the governor’s decision.
“We have been, and we will remain flexible as we continue to receive additional data and input from medical experts as we fight to reduce the projected strain on our health care system, and keep our citizens, their families and communities across this state safe,” he said. “A healthy economy starts with having healthy Tennesseans.”
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