Since Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order directing Tennesseans to stay at home unless they are conducting “essential business,” there’s been confusion about who can leave the house and for what reasons.
McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton addressed that confusion Tuesday at the county’s weekly coronavirus press conference.
Hours later, the Tennessee Department of Health announced Warren County has its second confirmed COVID-19 case. The county had been holding steady with one confirmed case for eight days.
“The most frequent question I get is, ‘Will I get stopped randomly by a police officer while I’m on the roadway?’” said Chief Denton. “The answer to that is no, you will not. Officers need to establish cause, just like any other situation, to legally make a traffic stop. Keep in mind though, if you were to be stopped for a traffic violation, an officer may ask you questions related to the governor’s order.”
Denton said contrary to social media comments, there is no local curfew related to COVID-19. He said people are not required to have a letter from their employer to go back and forth to work. “Nothing is wrong with that, but a letter is not required,” he said.
Sheriff’s Department Major Jason Walker said law enforcement officials have received calls from concerned citizens complaining about some businesses remaining open despite not being on the list of “essential businesses.”
“Whenever people call about some of the businesses they think are not in compliance, we are working with the businesses and the individuals to ensure compliance,” said Walker.
He also reinforced what Chief Denton said about being stopped by law enforcement.
“You will not be pulled over for leaving your home and driving around,” said Walker. “You can still go to the doctor, grocery store, pharmacy and pick up take-out orders from restaurants. You are permitted to go outdoors for certain activities. It is recommended when you go outdoors you keep proper social distancing. We ask for voluntary compliance to the governor’s orders. Try to stay at your residence as much as you can.”
Denton reminded residents to not buy into statements made on social media until they are confirmed by a reputable source.
“Please be leery of unchecked statements on social media,” said Denton. “There are irresponsible people who will use this platform to entertain themselves by deliberately creating fear through false information. Get your facts from reputable news sources, media sources, in your community.”
County Executive Jimmy Haley urged residents to abide by the government guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus. There are now 4,138 confirmed cases statewide, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
“We’ve seen how quickly a hotspot outbreak can spiral out of control and place everyone in jeopardy,” said Haley. “Local government cannot do everything. We should commend all those businesses who have complied with the orders and adapted to using protective measures for both their customers and their employees. For those who continue to operate despite the mandate, we ask you to do the right thing. If you ignore the safety of your employees and ignore the lives of others then the real cost of your decision may come later. Please be a team player. The sooner we all cooperate, the sooner this thing will all be over.”
McMinnville Mayor Ben Newman advised residents to pay attention to surfaces they touch when out in public and try to limit contact. “It’s not just your local leaders and your local government,” said Newman. “It’s your part too.”
EMS director Preston Denney said wearing gloves can be an important safety precaution, but he said to remember gloves can contract and transmit infection as easily as your hands. For that reason, you should wash your hands thoroughly when taking off gloves.