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Governor Lee issues 'safer-at-home' order
Bill Lee
Bill Lee

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a statewide “safer-at-home” order on Monday to help stem the rapid spread of coronavirus, mandating the closure of all nonessential businesses while urging residents to remain at home whenever possible for the next two weeks.

However, the Republican maintained his continued resistance to adopting stronger social distancing measures taken by other states.

“This is not a mandated shelter in place order, but it is a strong urging for Tennesseans to stay at home,” Lee said during his daily media briefing. “I personally believe that with personal liberty comes personal responsibility.”

Essential businesses range from healthcare organizations, human services operations, grocery stores, funeral homes, laundromats, religious facilities and media outlets.

As of Tuesday at 2 p.m., Tennessee’s health agency had confirmed 2,239 cases and at least 23 deaths with 175 hospitalizations.

The state also began reporting number of people tested for the first time Tuesday. The state says 25,121 Tennesseans have been tested for the virus.

Lee has resisted calls to issue a statewide stay-at-home mandate ever since confirmed cases began popping up throughout the state. He has countered that Tennessee’s major population centers had already implemented such restrictions.

Lee also has repeatedly encouraged residents to work from home and ordered bars and restaurants to close with the exception of drive-thru, take-out and delivery services. Other restrictions have included closing gyms, barring most visitors to nursing homes and long-term care facilities — and prohibiting social gatherings of 10 or more people.

Despite those efforts, Lee continued to face scrutiny from hundreds of doctors and nurses pleading for a mandated stay-at-home order to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed.

“Gov. Lee’s weak leadership ... is undermining the strong, early steps many of our cities’ mayors took to protect families,” said Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pulmonary specialist in a statement. “Now some Tennesseans are separating from others, but many are not and this means this virus keeps spreading. Urging separation is not enough.”

The safer-at-home announcement came hours after U.S. Rep. Steven Cohen told reporters he was going to send a letter not only to Lee, but to the Republican governors of Mississippi and Arkansas encouraging them to issue stay-at-home orders for residents. He said such restrictions would help ease the burden on Memphis hospitals that will likely end up treating virus patients from those states in coming weeks.

Cohen later applauded Lee’s Monday decision, but warned that a shelter in place “must become mandatory.”

Essential vs Nonessential

The following list comes from Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order which is in effect until April 14.


• Businesses or organizations that perform close-contact personal services, such as:

• Barbershops

• Hair salons

• Waxing salons

• Threading salons

• Nail salons or spas

• Spas providing body treatments

• Body-art facilities or tattoo services

• Tanning salons

• Massage therapy or massage services

Also considered nonessential are entertainment and recreational gathering venues, such as:

• Night clubs

• Bowling alleys

• Arcades

• Concert venues

• Theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers or similar facilities

• Racetracks

• Indoor children’s play areas

• Adult entertainment venues

• Amusement parks

• Roller or ice skating rinks


• Healthcare and public health operations

• Human services operations

• Essential infrastructure operations

• Essential government operations, functions

• Food and medicine stores

• Food and beverage productions and agriculture

• Organizations that provide charitable and social services

• Religious and ceremonial functions

• Media

• Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation

• Financial institutions and insurance facilities

• Hardware and supply stores

• Critical trades

• Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services

• Educational institutions (consistent with Exec. Order Nos. 17 & 21)

• Laundry services

• Restaurants for off-premises consumption

• Supplies to work from home

• Supplies for essential business operations

• Transportation

• Home-based care and services

• Residential facilities and shelters

• Professional services

• Manufacturing, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries

• Hotels and motels

• Funeral services

Also allowed

• Any business related to an Essential Activity, including any outdoor recreation area, park, site, or trail that provides opportunities for outdoor recreation while maintaining adherence to the Health Guidelines.

• Any other business or organization that operates at all times with 10 or fewer persons accessing the premises of the business or organization at a time, including 11 employees, customers, and other visitors; provided, that the premises allows for operation within the Health Guidelines and that such Health Guidelines are followed at all times.

• The minimum necessary activities required to maintain any business or organization, whether otherwise essential or not, including: 1) maintaining the value of the business’s or organization’s inventory; 2) Preserving the condition of the business’s or organization’s physical plant and equipment, livestock, or other assets; 3) Ensuring the security of the business or organization; 4) Processing the business’s or organization’s mail, payroll, and employee benefits; 5) Facilitating employees of the business or organization being able to continue to work remotely from their residences; or 6) Conducting any functions related to these activities.