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Gov. Bill Lee Shuts Down Non-Essential Businesses In Tennessee


Non-essential businesses across the state have been ordered to close as part of Gov. Bill Lee’s latest executive order.

Lee says this will strengthen the recommended social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But the governor stopped short of requiring people to stay at home.

“This is not a mandate for people to shelter in place,” Lee told reporters in a videoconference Monday. “This is an urging for citizens to not utilize non-essential businesses.”

The order still allows Tennesseans to go outdoors and run errands like going to the grocery store or buying work supplies, and it specifies that “because protecting personal liberty is deeply important, this order is not a shelter-in-place mandate and instead strongly urges Tennesseans to stay at home.”

However, non-essential businesses such as barbershops and nail salons will have to close until April 14.

More: Read the text of the order here.

Lee says this will change how Tennesseans behave during the crisis.

“It will strengthen the social distancing policy across our state, which we all know will help slow the spread,” Lee said.

Other cities, such as Nashville and Memphis, have already put in place so-called safer-at-home orders, but they have largely gone unenforced. Leading up to this point, many in Tennessee’s medical community have criticized the governor for not mandating a statewide shelter-in-place order, which could carry the force of law.

One frequent critic of the governor’s handling of the coronavirus, Protect My Care, says Lee’s decision to just encourage people to not go out does not go far enough. It called his order a “half measure.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.
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