Note: This story was last updated at 4:48 p.m.
On Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said he will sign Executive Order 23 requiring that Tennesseans stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities. Lee said he is issuing the order because data shows an increase in movements across the state.
“We need all Tennesseans who can to stay home,” Lee said during a Thursday afternoon press conference that was broadcast online.
The governor issued a “safer at home” order this week that urged people to stay home except for essential business. But not as many are staying home as officials would like, and there had apparently been some disregard for the public health guidance.
“It’s dangerous, it’s unacceptable, and it’s a threat to life in the community,” Lee said.
The new order goes further, he said.
“Staying home is not an option,” Lee said. “It’s a requirement.”
Businesses are being asked to comply, and enforcement could be used, the governor said.
“We’ll take necessary steps appropriate for enforcement as we see them,” Lee said. Law enforcement agencies can enforce the order in their own way, Lee told reporters, and clear enforcement is appropriate.
The Oliver Springs Police Department said violating the executive order will be a Class A misdemeanor. “Please everyone take this seriously and stay in when possible,” the OSPD said.
In a press release, Lee said officials had seen decreases in movement around the state during the past few weeks as Tennesseans socially distanced and stayed at home.
But in the past several days, there had data indicating that movement may be increasing. “There was clearly a rise in movement,” Lee said.
“We must get these numbers trending back down,” the governor said. “I have updated my previous executive order to clearly require that Tennesseans stay at home unless they are carrying out essential activities.”
Data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation analyzed traffic patterns for March 2020, the press release said. While “safer at home” measures and further restrictions on businesses showed a steep drop-off in vehicle movement from March 13-29, data beginning on March 30 indicates travel is trending upwards, again, the release said.
The governor’s administration also analyzed data from Unacast to understand cell phone mobility and determine movement trends among people. Unacast indicates the movement of Tennesseans is trending toward pre-COVID-19 levels, the press release said.
“The month of April stands to be an extremely tough time for our state as we face the potential for a surge in COVID-19 cases,” Lee said. “Every Tennessean must take this seriously, remain at home, and ensure we save lives.”
The executive order remains in effect until April 14 at 11:59 p.m. Lee said he will address the measures in a press briefing today at 3 p.m. Central time.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee increased to 2,845 on Thursday, with 32 deaths and 263 hospitalizations. Two hundred twenty patients have recovered, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, said he agreed that a stronger mandate was needed.
“The numbers don’t lie,” McNally said. “As the peak of the COVID crisis approaches, it is more important than ever that we flatten the curve and prevent a run on needed resources.”
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