Day in Corona: Can they tell us to stay home?

Mar 23, 2020 at 09:45 am by Michelle Willard

A recreation of restaurants in Murfreesboro featuring an empty chair.

Over the weekend, Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland declared a "state of emergency" in the city and issued a series of orders that impact restaurants, bars and gyms.

That was Saturday night.

On Sunday Nashville Mayor John Cooper followed suit and extended his orders from the previous weekend that closed bars. The new "Safer at Home" order came from Davidson County's "Medical Director pursuant to the Metro of Public Health Department’s declaration of a Health Emergency."

For the next 17 days (April 6), Cooper's order closes all non-essential businesses and encourages residents throughout Davidson County to stay home when possible and avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people for non-essential purposes.

Not to be outdone, Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order that parroted McFarland's. On March 22, Lee signed Executive Order No. 17 calling for businesses across the state to implement alternative business models from Monday, March 23 until April 6, 2020. The order also outlines ways businesses and citizens should work to protect vulnerable populations by prohibiting social gatherings of 10 or more people and limiting restaurants and bars to take-out, pick-up or delivery services. On March 12, Lee's Executive Order No. 14 declared a state of emergency by citing state law that allows the governor to suspend the rule of law during a state of emergency.

My questions: Can they do that? Does Lee's declaration of a broad state of emergency give him the power to close businesses?

From what I read in the Tennessee Code Annotated, it looks like Cooper was the only who did it correctly.

TCA 68-1-201 gives the commissioner of Tennessee Department of Health the ability to order a quarantine. Specifically, it says "Whenever yellow fever, cholera, smallpox or other epidemic diseases appear in any locality within the state, and information thereof is brought to the knowledge of the department, the commissioner shall prepare and carry into effect such rules and regulations as, in the commissioner's judgment, will, with the least inconvenience to commerce and travel, prevent the spread of the disease."

State law also gives the top health official in an affected county the ability to declare a quarantine.

That's what Cooper did.

That's not what Lee and McFarland did.

State law allows municipal mayor to order the evacuation of areas within their jurisdiction. Can McFarland order the evacuation of dining rooms in restaurants? Does that count?

And that's not what a "state of emergency" is at the municipal level. All McFarland did was make the city eligible for disaster assistance funds if Congress can ever get its act together long enough to pass a relief bill.

If Bill Ketron could do anything but publish a "signed letter" that can be summed up as "yeah, what the governor said," he could have taken decisive action and worked with McFarland and the other municipal mayors in the county to develop a plan to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. The Town of Smyrna then chimed in "Us, too!"

We have laws for a reason. They are to protect us from each other and that includes those in power.

Do we need to avoid each other and stay home? Yes, we do.

Even thought I hate to compare Tennessee to Kentucky. Here's a chart explaining why we should all stay at home:

 Stolen from Facebook

This is the time for real leaders to step up and lead. Where's our county mayor? McFarland took the lead and did the right thing. I just want our leaders to do the right thing in the right way. You can't just start throwing out orders willy-nilly. If you are going to do something, do it right.

 

COVID-19 Reported Cases in Tennessee

As of 10 a.m. Monday, March 23:

 

 

Confirmed cases

Deaths

U.S.

 

 

03/22*

15219

201

03/21*

15,219

201

03/20

15219

201

03/19

7038

97

Tennessee

 

 

03/22

505

1

03/21

371

2

03/20

228

-

03/19

154

-

Rutherford County

 

 

03/22

8

-

03/21

5

-

03/20

1

-

03/19

1

-

*Not updated over weekend 



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