Lee

After pleas from thousands of doctors and nurses, outcry from increasingly worried citizens and criticism on national news programs, Gov. Bill Lee is issuing an order "requiring that Tennesseans stay home unless they are carrying out essential activities" amid the coronavirus pandemic. The order is in effect until April 14.

The governor's office says that "data shows an increase in citizen movement across the state."

“Over the last few weeks, we have seen decreases in movement around the state as Tennesseans socially distance and stay at home,” Lee said in a written statement. “However, in recent days we have seen data indicating that movement may be increasing and we must get these numbers trending back down. I have updated my previous executive order to clearly require that Tennesseans stay at home unless they are carrying out essential activities.”

Lee has resisted the stricter measures that have been shown to slow the spread of the virus in other states. Instead he has taken small, incremental steps that have slowly placed more restrictions on businesses and individuals in the state. In a call two weeks ago, he told local leaders to bet on human nature and prayer to prevent the spread of the illness that has now killed thousands in the United States. Earlier this week, the governor issued a "strong urging" to Tennesseans to stay at home. But thousands of doctors, including former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, urged him to go further. 

As of Thursday afternoon, there were reportedly more than 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee, and 32 deaths. 

In the release announcing the new order, the governor's office said that the Tennessee Department of Transportation analyzed traffic data in the month of March. 

"While safer at home measures and further restrictions on businesses showed a steep drop-off in vehicle movement from March 13-29, data beginning on March 30 indicates travel is trending upwards, again," the release said. 

The administration also points to cell phone data that shows increased movement among Tennesseans. 

“The month of April stands to be an extremely tough time for our state as we face the potential for a surge in COVID-19 cases,” Lee said. “Every Tennessean must take this seriously, remain at home and ensure we save lives.”

More details on the order are due at a forthcoming briefing.

 This post originally appeared in our sister publication, the Nashville Post