1,373 COVID-19 cases in Tennessee, Governor Lee gives executive orders, Mayor Berke adds to social distancing

Written by: Samantha Burgess, editor in chief

Chattanooga, TENN.—With the COVID-19 invasion into the U.S. Tennessee currently has 1,373 cases, seven of which resulted in death. 

Governor Lee is taking several precautionary measures for the state in order to help flatten the curve of the pandemic. On Sunday, March 22, 2020 Gov. Lee ordered all bars, restaurants and gyms to close across the state with the provision that restaurants could offer delivery or drive-thru services.

With 35 of the 1,373 cases of COVID-19 coming from Hamilton County, Mayor Berke issued his own executive order on March 24, 2020 that requires all businesses which don’t allow for social distancing to be closed March 25-May 11. This includes all retail stores and indoor areas of malls, hair and nail salons and barbershops or beauty parlors, as well as massage parlors, spas, tanning salons and tattoo parlors.

Mayor Berke is also prohibiting public gatherings of any size and requests citizens not to leave their homes unless of essential activities such as going to work, grocery shopping, picking up medicine or if they are in need of medical attention. 

Mayor Berke speaking at a press conference.

Mayor Berke warned that if people are not practicing safe social distancing requirements and numbers within the community rise he may have to take more drastic measures and expand the order.

On Monday, March 23, 2020 Gov. Lee issued executive order 18, in place until April 15, requiring all elective surgeries at hospitals, surgery centers and dental offices to be halted. The order asks practitioners to donate personal protective equipment to the nearest national guard armory.

Governor Lee speaking at a press conference.

Part of Gov. Lee’s order includes implementing a COVID-19 Unified Command which will allow the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Military to work together. 

The purpose of the Unified Command, led by Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, is to, according to Governor Lee, “effectively change the way we attack COVID-19 in Tennessee as we work to simultaneously address health, economic and supply crises.”

Several countries across the state of Tennessee have taken their own precautionary measures such as closing down businesses and schools.

Bryan College participated in these measures, shutting down completely from March 14-24. Although the campus and dorms will open to students, faculty and staff on April 6, all classes will be online for the rest of the semester and all events will be cancelled until further notice.

As of now the college’s 90th commencement ceremony will be held May 9 as planned if state restrictions on gatherings over 10 people are lifted in time.

Many medical professionals have urged Governor Lee to take similar measures and enforce a stay-at-home order similar to those implemented in California and New York, but Gov. Lee does not feel the measures are necessary at this time. 

 “Nothing is off the table and decisions change everyday,” said Gov. Lee. “If you’re not nimble, and you’re not willing to take in new information and make new decisions, then you’re not going to make the right decision at the right time, and that’s our goal.”

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve, there are several measures that people can take across the state and country. Staying at home in self quarantine is the most effective way, however those who go out in public can also practice social distancing by staying 6 feet apart from people.

The CDC urges people to wash their hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitiser with an alcohol content of over 60 percent can also be used. It is also important to disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.

People should also avoid touching their face, especially their eyes, nose and mouth. The virus is spread directly through these areas either through person to person contact or surface to person contact. Make sure to cough into your arm and sneeze into a tissue.

If you are sick stay inside and wear a facemask if you go out in public. 

If you believe you may have COVID-19 self-quarantine immediately and call a doctor who will assess if it is necessary for you to be tested for COVID-19. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

There are several COVID-19 assessment sites in Tennessee, including a drive-thru testing site in Hamilton County at Erlanger UT Family Practice.

Disclaimer: The number of COVID-19 cases changes daily. For live updates visit the CDC website.

Samantha Burgess is a senior communication major with an emphasis in digital media and is editor in chief for the Triangle. Her interests in writing include profiles and feature articles. Burgess can often be found curled up with a good book, writing, listening to music or watching Netflix.