How Governor Lee's new stay-at-home order could be enforced

Posted at 3:44 PM, Apr 02, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — On Thursday, Governor Bill Lee announced he would sign a stay-at-home order, a step up from his recommendation that Tennesseans stay at home. Previous to this announcement, Governor Lee never directly called for enforcement of his safer-at-home order.

At least not publicly. But he did send a letter to every sheriff, police chief and district attorney in the state before today's announcement on how to enforce his previous executive orders.

The Governor is telling them to use the force of law on those who simply refuse to comply.

Keep in mind, citations or even an arrest would only be as the very last resort.

Police chiefs and sheriffs were not caught off guard. They saw this coming and they have a game plan.

The Governor has made it clear, and cities like Nashville are trying to comply: Stay closed, only take out or delivery service. Businesses that require close contact or large crowds must shutter. Only those deemed essential may operate. Practice social distancing.

Comply, or expect a visit from law enforcement.

"In these times of emergency we have to do what we have to do to protect the masses," said Coffee County Sheriff Chad Partin. He was among those who received an official letter Wednesday night.

In it, Governor Lee asks law officers to "utilize sound judgment, restraint and discretion" to encourage the public to follow his orders.

Read the full letter below

But he added, enforcement may "be used as a last and final option only if they become necessary due to refusal to voluntarily comply."

"I don't want anyone in my county to feel the sheriff is threatening citizens," said Partin.

Sheriffs, police chiefs and District Attorneys have already worked out guidelines. They will first verbally ask violators to comply, then send a letter. And finally a citation.

"On the fourth go around we have to do as a sheriff what I don't want to do and that's make an arrest and that's sad," said Partin, who doubts it will come to that.

When asked about these steps during his Thursday press conference, Lee said each law enforcement agency has the authority to take steps to force non-essential businesses that aren’t in compliance.

Consider what happened just Wednesday in Nashville; health inspectors followed-up a complaint on a smoke shop that appeared to be doing business in violation of the order.

No arrests, but the place then complied.

The hope is that's the way things will work, but if not police and deputies will take action.

One problem with enforcement is determining essential from non-essential businesses.

In many cases though -- it's just be common sense.

Authorities will make the call.

If you suspect someone is violating the new stay-at-home order you are encouraged to call your county's non-emergency number and report it.


See all our coronavirus coverage here


What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.