KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — East Tennessee lawmakers and officials are reacting to the Tennessee governor’s executive order announced Monday instructing nonessential businesses across the state to close and urging Tennesseans to stay home amid the growing novel coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee announced he had signed Executive Order No. 22, which amends earlier executive orders and essentially instructs nonessential businesses to close through April 14 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
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The governor also asked that all Tennesseans stay home when possible to help prevent the spread.
“This is not a shelter-in-place order, but it is a strong urging for Tennesseans to stay home when at all possible,” Lee said. “I personally believe that with personal liberty comes personal responsibility.”
The law goes into effect at midnight, March 31.
“Yesterday, President Trump presented new guidelines until April 30th. We believe Tennesseans should remain home from work, school, and nonessential businesses,” Lee said. “We need you to do that, to protect lives of neighbors and Tennesseans. Protect the well-being of healthcare workers. We need you to stay home where at all possible. Your habits and routines will make the difference as we work to beat COVID-19.”
RELATED: Governor Bill Lee issues ‘Safer-at-Home’ order for Tennessee
As of Monday, the Tennessee Department of Health had confirmed more than 1,800 cases and at least 13 deaths, with the coronavirus reportedly spreading to 77 of 95 counties.
East Tennessee lawmakers, officials react
Lawmakers, city and county officials from East Tennessee provided statements regarding the governor’s order and urging for all Tennesseans to stay home when possible.
Knox County and the City of Knoxville had already issued similar safer at home orders earlier this month to help “flatten the curve” and preventing the further spread of COVID-19.
Knoxville Mayor Kincannon on Monday said she supported the governor’s order.
“I support Governor Bill Lee’s statewide executive orders announced today. These orders, which include a Safer at Home measure, are in line with our local efforts that aim to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the stress on our medical facilities. Making these decisions could ultimately save lives and we all have the responsibility and the power to do our part during this pandemic.”Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon
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Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs:
“I want to commend Gov. Lee on his leadership. Gov. Lee and I share a political philosophy in that we both want to protect the health of our citizens.
As I stated a few weeks ago, I have two jobs. One is to ensure public safety and the health of the people of Knox County. The other is to maintain my oath to the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee and protect the civil liberties and the rights of the people of Knox County. I intend on doing both.
I believe we all share the same goal, which is mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and getting back to work as soon as possible.”
Anderson County said its government was already following the governor’s orders: “We have been actively involved across Anderson County in discussing and paying attention to the guidance of the Governor, the State Health Department and the CDC,” Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank said. “Anderson County falls under the orders issued by Governor Lee.”
“If you have questions, my office will be happy to offer assistance in seeking answers,” Mayor Frank said. “But, we urge you to read the Governor’s orders for specifics and follow his directives for the safety of all our citizens.”
Doctors Group says Lee’s action is not enough
A grassroots healthcare organization released a statement Monday saying the governor’s announcement was not enough.
It has been 11 days and 12 deaths since more than 2,000 doctors and health care workers sent a letter to Gov. Bill Lee pleading for him to issue a stay-at-home order. Health experts have deemed a statewide order essential if Tennessee is going to save lives by mitigating the strain on hospitals and medical equipment supplies.
Gov. Lee’s failure to act early and listen to the plea of doctors has allowed things to get worse in our state, according to Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pulmonary specialist who is treating COVID-19 patients in Tennessee.
“This order doesn’t go far enough to save lives and keep Tennesseans in their homes,” Milstone said. “Gov. Lee’s weak leadership has created confusion, and that in turn is undermining the strong, early steps many of our cities’ mayors took to protect families. Now some Tennesseans are separating from others, but many ARE NOT — and this means this virus keeps spreading. Urging separation is not enough.”Protect My Care
RELATED: Coronavirus in Tennessee: Doctors plead with Tennessee governor for stay-at-home order