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Coronavirus continues to cause upheaval, State and County responds

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The United States has drastically changed since the World Health Organization first reported the outbreak of novel coronavirus. On Sunday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 17, calling for businesses across the state to utilize “alternative business models.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created both an economic and a health crisis, and our response must continue to address both aspects,” said Gov. Lee. “Our goal is to keep the public, especially vulnerable populations, safe while doing everything possible to keep Tennesseans in a financially stable position.”

Executive Order 17 prohibits social gatherings of 10 or more people and also enacts the following provisions regarding restaurants, bars, and similar food and drink establishments:

•Establishments are to exclusively offer a drive-thru, take-out, or delivery options to support families, businesses, and the food supply chain during this emergency.

•Establishments may sell alcohol by take-out or delivery (with the purchase of food) in closed containers to those who are age 21 and up. Gyms and fitness/exercise centers or substantially similar facilities are to temporarily close and suspend in-person services until April 6, 2020. In the interim, these businesses are encouraged to pursue digital programming if possible.  

The order also pursues additional measures to keep vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with underlying conditions safe.

•Visitation to nursing homes, retirement homes, and long-term care or assisted-living facilities is now limited to visits involving essential care only.

•Businesses are encouraged to enact policies that take extra steps to assist vulnerable populations by considering measures such as shopping hours exclusive from the general public.

“I urge every Tennessean to take these actions seriously – our physical and economic health depends on this as we work to beat COVID-19,” said Lee.

While the personal finance website WalletHub ranked Tennessee as the ninth least aggressive state in the nation for fighting the virus, the state’s response is still ongoing. The poor ranking was given with regards to the number of public health laboratories, number of tested coronavirus cases, in public health spending per capita, and in total public health emergency preparedness funding. Since that ranking, Tennessee’s leaders have focused on keeping residents safe.

While the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, the upheaval is also evident on the local level. Stores have sold out of obvious items like hand sanitizer and less obvious items like toilet paper. In response to the wave of coronavirus concerns, the majority of local churches announced changes to their schedules, with most opting to livestream their services or post video.

“We believe the more Tennesseans are reminded of their individual role, the more likely it is that we can slow the spread of this disease,” Gov Lee told reporters during a recent press conference. “Peoples’ lives are depending on it, their livelihoods are depending on it, and I encourage Tennesseans to pray for our state.”