Days after an executive decree calling on Tennesseans to stay home amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Governor Bill Lee will now mandate the action.
The governor’s office said in a press release that he would sign an executive ordinance on Thursday. The order will take effect immediately, said the governor’s spokesman, Gillum Ferguson. It will take at least until April 14th.
Lee said the mandate was necessary because there was clear evidence that some citizens were beginning to safer disregard his previous order at home and described such acts as dangerous.
“I want to take a moment to speak directly to every Tennessee,” Lee said during a daily press conference on Thursday. “April will be a very tough month for our state. COVID-19 is an immediate threat and you need to understand that staying home is not an option. This is a prerequisite for the rapid defeat of COVID-19 in Tennessee. “
The governor’s move came after a growing chorus of Tennesseans and doctors, including most recently former US Senator Bill Frist, asked Lee to go beyond his latest “Safer at Home” regulation.
The governor’s decision is made a day after similar steps have been taken in other southern states, including Mississippi and Florida. These states issued such mandates on Wednesday, with Florida governor Ron DeSantis citing President Donald Trump’s “changed behavior” in connection with the pandemic.
As of Thursday, state officials reported that 2,800 people were infected with COVID-19, with 32 deaths and 263 hospitalizations.
The governor’s nationwide mandate is his strongest move to date in relation to the ongoing pandemic. It comes only a day after he and members of his government have told legislators that he expects beds and fans to be lacking in the coming weeks as Tennessee faces “raptures” of new cases that could force the state to alternative facilities such as dormitories and conventions use centers for patient accommodation.
On Thursday, Lee also identified facilities across the state that would serve as makeshift medical facilities. These include 1,600 beds in the Music City Center in Nashville, 170 beds in the Gateway Shopping Center in Memphis and an as yet unknown number of beds in the Chattanooga Convention Center and the Knoxville Expo Center.
On Wednesday, Lee said the state was considering modeling from a university in Washington that found 3,200 Tennesseans could die by August.
Less than two hours before Lee’s announcement on Thursday, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke issued a hideaway to allow the city to significantly restrict activities. Other major cities in the state, including Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, had previously issued “Safer at Home” commands.
Lee said on Thursday that the mandate was necessary, although the movement across Tennessee has been declining in recent weeks.
“However, in the past few days, we have seen data indicating that the movement could increase and we need to reduce these numbers again,” he said. “I updated my previous executive order to clearly request that Tennesseans stay home unless they carry it.” essential activities. “
Before Lee’s mandate on Thursday, he was repeatedly criticized by doctors and officials across the state, including in the national media, for not doing what was necessary.
In his statement, Lee said his administration analyzed cell phone data and traffic patterns to conclude that such a mandate was necessary. The government said the data saw a sharp drop in vehicle movements between March 13 and 29. Lately, travel has tended to move up.
Lee shared some of the traffic data on social media on Thursday afternoon.
Lee’s decision to implement the mandate came after he frequently said that no such action was required as he worked to balance public health and protect personal freedoms. He also said experts in the medical community remain divided on the issue.
“This is not a mandatory ‘shelter in place’ arrangement, as it is still very important to me to protect personal freedoms,” Lee said on Monday.
Prior to his Monday order, Lee insisted that nationwide orders were difficult to enforce, saying he preferred to recommend social distancing rather than mandating them.
Medical experts criticized the governor for signing a petition launched a few weeks ago by the dermatologist Jennifer Martin from the Nashville region and demanding a nationwide mandate. By Thursday morning, more than 31,000 people – including thousands of medical professionals.
Shortly after the governor’s decision to oblige Tennesseans to stay at home was announced, a group of doctors who advocated an order at home made a statement saying the new restrictions would live rescue.
Dr. Aaron Milstone, a Williamson County doctor who organized the campaign, praised thousands of doctors who had signed a petition to put pressure on the governor.
“Many of these frontline healthcare workers who risk their lives every day also risked their careers because they spoke out – and we can’t thank them enough,” Milstone said in a written statement. He later added, “This movement has shown that despite our differences, when people come together, we can make changes that save lives.”
Natalie Allison and Brett Kelman contributed to this report.
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