Local leaders react to Lee extending State of Emergency

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee extended the State of Emergency Monday to Aug. 29 and it includes urging people to wear masks, continue social distancing and limiting contact sports.

The extension of the order comes after cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Tennessee and in Hamblen County, which the state designated a “hot spot” a week ago.

Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain said Tuesday that he had read through the order and believes they are good precautions for people to follow, though they are not enforceable.

“They’re strong recommendations,” Brittain, chairman of the Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force, said.

But, as the cases continue to mount, he said he thinks more people are taking notice not only to the county numbers, but the statewide orders that are growing.

“I think it’s getting people’s attention, not everybody, that this COVID-19 is real,” he said.

The task force is in the process of developing a marketing campaign to encourage more residents to follow CDC guidelines and will meet Tuesday to discuss the message.

Dr. Jeff Perry, Hamblen County school superintendent, said he read through the order and has some questions, such as about limiting contact sports.

“We still have some of those limits in place,” he said.

He said the school system will continue to seek clarification from the state on limited contact sports, and what that means for football season, but he said he did not see many provisions that affect schools.

“I don’t think it changes any of our plans right now,” he said.

The governor’s order goes through a long list of different options to help protect Tennesseans from COVID-19, but the governor has said in the past that the order will not be enforced and he expects communities to comply on their own.

The order urges Tennesseans to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary, urges residents to wear a cloth mask when in close proximity to others and maintain a six-foot radius from others in order to social distance.

It also calls for limiting gathering of social gatherings of more than 50 people unless social distancing can be maintained. Churches, weddings and funerals are exempt from this order and are asked to follow guidelines proposed specifically for them.

The order also says contact sports should be limited with the exception of collegiate and professional sports, which have their own governing bodies.

It also allows for curbside alcohol sales to continue as well as a litany of other restrictions to continue to be lifted.

The governor first issued a State of Emergency order on March 12 and extended the order in May.

Lee also issued a second order extending electronic meetings for governments until Aug. 29.

The orders come as Hamblen County has exceeded more than 200 total positive tests since the outbreak first began.

This is double the amount of any other county in the Lakeway Area with Jefferson County having recorded 99 cases.

There have been four reported deaths in Hamblen County as well.

Currently, there are 84 active cases in Hamblen County, according to state records. There have been 120 recoveries.

The amount of growing cases led the Morristown-Hamblen Library to close its doors to open traffic on Monday. Anyone checking out books will be asked to sit outside in their car and call the library. Patrons are asked to either open the trunk or the back seat door and once the patron is back inside the car, library workers will deliver the books to the patron’s vehicle.

Since Saturday, the state has seen an increase of more than 2,100 new cases and almost 600 deaths. The state has conducted almost 777,000 tests since the start of the pandemic.