NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is issuing an executive order requiring citizens to stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities as data shows an increase in citizen movement across the state.
“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. “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.”
Data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation analyzed traffic patterns for March 2020. While safer at home measures and further restrictions on businesses showed a steep drop-off in vehicle movement from March 13-29, data beginning on March 30 indicates travel is trending upwards, again.
The Administration also analyzed data from Unacast to understand cell phone mobility and determine movement trends among people. Unacast indicates the movement of Tennesseans is 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.”
During the news conference Thursday, Governor Lee strongly urged everyone to stop panic buying and hoarding of groceries, reiterating that our existing food supply chain will allow for everyone to shop normally.
“We need you to understand that staying home is not an option, it is a requirement,” said Lee.
The Governor said the state has been approved for a FEMA COVID-19 major disaster declaration expanding the statewide capacity to 7,000 additional care beds and gives the state additional resources from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Currently, there are plans to transform the Music City Center into a COVID-positive, non-acute hospital facility. The Music City Center facility will not be for critical care patients and will have a capacity of 1,600 beds for all other cases once work is completed. Similar measures are being taken at the Gateway Shopping Center in Memphis, Chattanooga Convention Center, and Knoxville Expo Center.
“We need every tool in our tool box,” said Lee.
Governor Lee strongly encouraged medical staff to register on the Tennessee Department of Health website if they are furloughed or out of work to help take care of the state’s COVID-19 patients.
In regards to military support, Tennessee currently has 400 personnel spread out across the state and the number continues to grow. Soldiers are being deployed as needs arise, and a field treatment unit is on standby in Smyrna.
Currently, there are two testing labs in the state that are able to provide a 45-minute results test. Tennessee Department of Health officials believe that the capacity at these labs will succeed over 1,000 tests per day if the equipment is available.
Dr. Lisa Piercey with Tennessee Department of Health stressed that just because Thursday’s numbers did not show a high number of growth not to interpret the numbers are slowing down or going down, saying that the results that came in Thursday were likely from tests performed last weekend and there were lower amounts of tests being done on the weekend.
A group of 2,000 doctors who organized a petition calling for Gov. Lee to do more ten days ago are celebrating this move.
“We are thrilled to finally have a stay-at-home order and it only happened because of the thousands of doctors and healthcare workers across this state used their voice to protect the wellbeing of their patients, their colleagues and their neighbors,” said Pulmonary Specialist Dr. Aaron Milstone. “Many of these frontline healthcare workers who risk their lives every day also risked their careers for speaking up — and we cannot thank them enough.”
Dr. Milstone says the stay-at-home order “is a testament to the power of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and citizens who make their voices heard.”
“We want to thank Gov. Lee for listening to the voices of doctors, nurses and citizens across our state, but this is no time to relax,” Milstone said. “We are racing against a pandemic that doesn’t care about executive orders or politics and, right now, we are still weeks behind.”
When asked if the medical community had some affect on his decision, Governor Lee said yes.
“I’m deeply grateful for the medical community, their opinions certainly do influence and are certainly important,” said Lee.
State officials like Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally and State Representative Mike Stewart are praising the governor’s latest order.
“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. Governor Lee has consistently been committed to a data-focused approach and he has proven it again today. The numbers don’t lie and it is clear at this moment a stronger mandate is needed. I appreciate Governor Lee’s ability to adapt to this fluid situation. 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.”Lt. Governor Randy McNally
“This action was long overdue but it is the right thing to do and I’m glad that he is doing it. Now we need to work on a coordinated plan that expands testing across the state, provides adequate personal, protective gear for our health care workers and addresses the financial crisis facing many Tennesseans.”Representative Mike Stewart (D-Tennessee)
Executive Order 23 remains in effect until April 14 at 11:59 p.m.
COVID-19 in Tennessee
(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST for every county other than Davidson. Information for Davidson comes from the Metro Public Health Department.)
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