Lee orders nonessential businesses to close statewide

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at the state Capitol on Sept. 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has ordered nonessential businesses to close their doors around the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic in Tennessee.

Lee had resisted calling for business closures around the state even while urban areas like Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and others had already taken those steps.

The move comes after 100 people at a Gallatin nursing home were hospitalized and two died amid a COVID-19 outbreak there. Sumner County’s confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 179.

The governor’s previous executive orders required restaurants to limit themselves to takeout and delivery, shut down gyms, and banned gatherings of more than 10 people.

Lee was joined by House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) and Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) at the announcement. Here’s a statement from McNally:

From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Lee has been deliberate and careful in his approach. This threat changes from day-to-day, hour-to-hour and minute-to-minute. I appreciate Governor Lee’s ability to remain data-focused and flexible. Today’s order is a big step but a needed one at this time. Most population centers in our state are already operating under these conditions. Essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. The most important part of this order is that it sends the message the governor has been sending for many days now in no uncertain terms: stay home and stay apart.

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