Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Issues ‘Safer at Home’ Executive Order for State

A man plays Beethoven's Ode of Joy on his trumpet on a balcony at the district Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, March 22, 2020. In order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, the German government has considerably restricted public life and asked the citizens to stay at …
AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a “Safer at Home” executive order for the entire state at a press conference in Nashville on Monday afternoon.

Lee was the latest of more than two dozen governors who have issued similar executive orders this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Executive Order 22 applies to residents of all 95 counties of the state and will be in effect for a two week period beginning 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14.

Earlier this month, public health directors in Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Shelby County, and Memphis had issued “stay at home” orders for their localities, with the approval of their local mayors.

Citing the authority granted to him in the Tennessee Constitution, and “in light of the continuing state of emergency to facilitate the response to COVID-19, and to keep the citizens of the State of Tennessee safe and healthy,” Governor Lee, a Republican, ordered “Safer at home” provisions that “all persons in Tennessee are urged to stay at home, except for when engaging in Essential Activity or Essential Services as defined in this Order.”

The order also provided for:

  • Closure of non-essential businesses for public use. Businesses or organizations that do not perform Essential Services shall not be open for access or use by the public or its members. Such businesses or organizations are strongly encouraged to provide delivery, including delivery curbside outside of the business or organization, of online or telephone orders, to the greatest extent practicable, and persons are encouraged to use any such options to support such businesses during this emergency.
  • Essential activity and essential services should be limited.
  • Essential services businesses should follow health guidelines. 
  • Employers shall not require or allow employees with COVID-19 to work.

The Executive Order left two earlier executive orders in place: Number 17, issued on March 22, that closed in-store dining for all restaurants and bars and limited social gatherings to ten or fewer, and Number 21, issued earlier in the day on Monday March 30, which strengthened Executive Order 17 by closing businesses that provide “close-contact personal services” as well as recreation activities.

Executive Order 22 also included a provision that said it did not repeal any existing local order: “Nothing herein repeals, preempts, or otherwise limits the authority, if any, of a locality to issue further orders or measures on these same subjects.”

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who also serves as president of the Tennessee State Senate, and Tennessee Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton, both Republicans, were present during the governor’s press conference and issued statements praising his decision.

As of Monday afternoon, the Tennessee Department of Health website reports that there have been 1,834 cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 13 deaths and 148 hospitalizations.


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