KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Health Department alongside Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, and leaders of Knox County hospitals announced the closure of all nonessential businesses.

KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan issued the “safer at home” order at a press conference on Monday. The order goes into effect for 14 days beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

These new measures are being taken to reduce the risk of the coronavirus to the general public and impact in Knox County and surrounding areas. Knox Countians are being urged to continue to exercise caution, adhere to social distancing guidelines — including keeping social gathers to 10 people or less — and maintain good hygiene practices.

“At this point, we do have community spread in Knox County,” Buchanan said. “These efforts are designed to flatten that curve.”

Watch the full KCHD press conference below:

Community spread means that a person has contracted coronavirus COVID-19 in Knox County and has not come in contact with someone who has a travel history to a country with ongoing transmission or has a connection to a known positive COVID-19 case.

“We understand the significant and, in many cases, the devastating impact this will have on our families and local businesses, but we are hopeful this action will help save lives,” Buchanan said. “Now is a time for our community to come together and support each other in several ways: protecting those most at risk of serious illness and finding creative ways to support individuals and businesses most affected by this order.”

No Knox County positive case for the coronavirus has been hospitalized, according to Buchanan.

UT Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Keith Gray said that the Knox County hospitals’ plan to stop nonessential surgeries will allow them to be ready should the pandemic grow further.

“We are keeping a daily monitor of what is coming in,” Gray said. “I think … when we recognize that we are short is too late. We are preparing as if we are going to see an escalation of the burden of disease in this community.”

“This is a necessary, proactive step to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Mayor Kincannon said. “Thank you Dr. Buchanan and thank you all for your cooperation and understanding during this unprecedented time. We will get through this together.”

Residents with questions about their health should contact their primary care physicians. Those without a primary care physician, may call KCHD public information line at 865-215-5555 or toll-free at 888-288-6022. The information line is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.

Call volume is expected to be high. Callers are urged to be patient if they receive a busy signal and try their call at a later time.

In addition, the Tennessee Department of Health has a public information line, 877-857-2945, that is available 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST, seven days a week.

“This is something we have all struggled with,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Like Dr. Buchanan says, “I encourage people to follow these guidelines,” because they’re the ones who control, really, what happens next as far as the spread of this illness and it’s something we really need to take seriously.”

“If you stay home, you save lives,” Kincannon added.

The following essential activities will remain open:

  • Federal and state offices and services, including post offices and airports
  • Essential Knox County government functions including law enforcement, transportation, and businesses that provide government programs and services
  • Food and beverage: grocery and beverage stores, farmers markets, food banks, catering, convenience stores selling food, agriculture, food processing, feed mills, and other businesses that directly support the food supply
  • Health care, mental and behavioral health, and biomedical research and businesses that directly support the healthcare industry including health information technology, staffing and supplies
  • Sanitation and waste removal businesses and services
  • Energy, water, and sewage businesses and services
  • Pharmacies and medical supply businesses, and other businesses that directly support the drug and medical supply pipeline
  • Vehicle fuel, support, service stations and businesses
  • Banks, savings and loans, insurance companies, accounting businesses, and other business that directly support the insurance and financial services sector
  • Legal and judicial services
  • Laundromats/laundry/cleaning services
  • Home and business repair, hardware supply
  • Warehousing and storage
  • Construction and facilities design businesses
  • Product logistics, transport, and distribution businesses
  • Parcel transportation and delivery businesses
  • Veterinary and pet supply business and services including agricultural services and the caring and feeding of all livestock and farm animals
  • Home and business cleaning and maintenance services
  • All businesses which rely upon deliveries may continue, including florists
  • Internet and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services)
  • Print, online and broadcast media
  • Certain other business and services the Knox County Health Department in coordination with Knox County Legal and the Office of the Mayor determines are essential for the continued safety and security of Knox County.

In addition:

  • Daycare and childcare business will remain open, but will prioritize children of parents working in essential services.
  • Hotels and commercial lodges will remain open, but must end entertainment or dining services in restaurants or group settings. Pick-up and room-service food services may continue.
  • Housing and rental services may continue, but agents should practice social distancing, hold no open houses, or gather in groups larger than 10.
  • Essential services listed above may continue as long as appropriate distancing is physically possible and encouraged. These businesses will adhere to CDC guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene in the workplace, including encouraging work-from-home and allowing employees when possible to work on-site in shifts to optimize social distancing in the workplace.
  • All essential services, especially grocery stores and pharmacies, will make best efforts to establish hours when only available to senior citizens or otherwise vulnerable populations.