Coronavirus in Tennessee: Reaction to Gov. Lee’s executive order requiring residents to stay at home

Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced before his daily press conference to the state a new executive order on Thursday requiring Tennesseans to stay at home except for essential business.

RELATED: Coronavirus in Tennessee: Gov. Lee issues order requiring Tennesseans to stay home

Leaders locally and across the state weighed in as well.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon supported the change after issuing an order Tuesday to close city parks and issue citations to nonessential businesses not in compliance with safer-at-home guidelines. She said her, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, and Knox County Department of Health Director Dr. Martha Buchanan are planning on meeting Friday to discuss the implementation of the order.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon

“Governor Bill Lee’s Stay at Home Order is a necessary measure to help protect lives in Tennessee and avoid overloading our medical facilities,” Kincannon said. “Watching the number of COVID-19 cases spread rapidly across the state reinforces that we all need to take every step possible to slow the spread of this virus.

“Tomorrow Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Dr. Martha Buchanan and I will be meeting with Governor Lee here in Knoxville, and we will discuss the best ways to enforce this mandate.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs

Mayor Jacobs said while he applauds Lee for following through with his convictions to protect Tennesseans, he is worried about how this new order will affect the economy, mental health and government perception of Knox County residents.

“I applaud the Governor for following through with his convictions and fulfilling his duty to protect the people of Tennessee according to his best judgment. However, I cannot applaud any government monitoring the movements of its people and mandating virtually everything we are allowed to do.

“I understand this is a crisis, but an economic crisis also looms with millions of people out of work and no way to earn a living, many of them due to mandated government shutdowns. We also have a looming mental health crisis as individuals struggle with depression and feelings of hopelessness and isolation, exacerbated by job loss — some have already taken their own lives.

“Further, we have a political crisis as our state and nation must determine a way to walk back from the damage currently being done to our system of free government. During another crisis, Abraham Lincoln said, ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.’ Knox County, will, of course, comply with this Executive Order. However, with our response to COVID-19, I fear that we may be testing the very limits of President Lincoln’s notion.

“As a people we must maintain our hope, optimism, and our faith in God’s provision. I encourage all Knox Countians to exercise the prescribed physical distancing guidelines, to engage in volunteer opportunities where appropriate, and to come together as a community through the use of technology.

“I look forward to Governor Lee’s visit tomorrow and continuing to work with him to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. I also am extremely pleased with the prospect of the Knox County Expo Center providing potential overflow capacity for COVID-19 cases.”

Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch and City Manager Mark Watson

Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch adopted the order at 5 p.m. Thursday and urged Oak Ridgers to stay at home except to carry out essential activities. City Manager Mark Watson asked for patience from the public during this time.

“It is time for all of us to stay home, starve the virus, save lives, and support local businesses for your essential activities,” Mayor Gooch said. “Stay positive and remember, we are in this together and we will win this war against an invisible enemy.”

“After six extremely busy weeks of planning and preparation, the city is ready for the full implementation of this executive order,” City Manager Mark Watson said. “We ask for patience with our public safety and personnel as we respond to this ever-changing situation.”

Tennessee Medical Association

 The Tennessee Medical Association said it “appreciates and applauds” Gov. Lee’s stay-at-home order issued Thursday. The association said staying at home is “the best weapon” against COVID-19.

“We all understand and recognize the gravity of this decision and the impact on our state. We are grateful that the Governor has made the tough decision that we believe is the right strategy to protect our citizens.

“It is reassuring to the medical community that the State is ramping up alternative site plans and calling for available health care workers to step forth and assist us to prepare to meet the peak demand facing us in the coming days. Besides flattening the curve of new patient COVID-19 cases, physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals on the front line of this battle will be better protected to take care of the citizens of our great state. This will be the most effective mechanism yet to slow the virus and hopefully prevent a truly overwhelming influx of critically ill patients in our health care system. 

Protect My Care

Protect My Care a grassroots group of 2,000 doctors that signed a petition on March 20 asking for Gov. Lee to issue a statewide stay-at-home order, said they were “thrilled” to have the order in place.

The petition garnered more than 31,000 signatures by Thursday, April 2.

“Many of these frontline healthcare workers who risk their lives every day also risked their careers for speaking up — and we cannot thank them enough,” Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pulmonary specialist who is treating COVID-19 patients in Tennessee, said.

“This movement showed that — despite our differences — when people come together, we can make change that saves lives. And beating this pandemic is going to take all of us doing just that: setting politics and our differences aside, following the science and advice of health experts, and all working together.

“We want to thank Gov. Lee for listening to the voices of doctors, nurses and citizens across our state, but this is no time to relax. We are racing against a pandemic that doesn’t care about executive orders or politics and, right now, we are still weeks behind.

“We know there are doctors and nurses who don’t have adequate supplies of protective equipment, like face shields, masks and gloves, and we know there are hospitals that don’t have all the equipment they may need to treat COVID patients. We can catch up and protect more lives, but we have to act fast.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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