For the past week, public health experts and government officials have been urging citizens, in increasingly serious tones, to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has sparked a global pandemic. Those calls have been echoed by celebrities and heeded by many business leaders.
But not Dave Ramsey.
The evangelical Christian financial guru — whose leadership style has come under scrutiny before — decided not to close the Williamson County offices of his Ramsey Solutions, even after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Confirmed cases of the illness are rising all over the state as testing increases. Williamson County has 24 confirmed cases as of this writing, and almost certainly many more that have not yet been identified.
The Ramsey Solutions office was still open, with staff members coming in to work, as of Tuesday. The company has not responded to emails and phone calls requesting comment.
“We know big gatherings are discouraged, but we are not shutting the company down,” Ramsey wrote in a staff-wide email sent March 15 and obtained by our sister publication the Nashville Scene from multiple sources.
In the same email, Ramsey addressed the staffer who he says tested positive. (We’ve redacted the staffer’s name. You can see the full email at the bottom of this post.)
“First off, this sucks for her, just pray for her and her family,” Ramsey wrote. “This will pass, it just sucks to be the first one like this and be called out by name, sorry [redacted], we love you.
Second, the whole office was deep cleaned over the weekend to the CDC standards before we found this out. We are also going to deep clean her area again up to the CDC standards.”
Ramsey did tell employees to work with managers directly if they “have valid reasons to stay home (newborn baby, elderly living with you, recently out of the country, etc.).” He also wrote that with school closures “throwing a wrench in a lot of things” staffers should “work with your leader and spouse and make a good plan that works for everybody.”
He went on: “Obviously if you have symptoms of the virus or the flu as always stay home and don’t bring your germs.”
But there is now significant evidence that the virus is being spread by people who are infected but not yet experiencing any symptoms. That is largely the impetus for social distancing, even by seemingly healthy people. Experts warn that asymptomatic people could unknowingly spread the virus to others, drastically increasing the number of serious cases and overloading hospitals.
But in his message to staff, Ramsey frames defying that guidance as a way of giving hope to the nation.
“Please keep your wits about you,” he wrote. “Stay calm. Exhibit faith. You are ok. Ramsey is ok. We will continue to balance wisdom, common sense, against valid measures taken equal to a valid threat. No more no less.
“People in the country are looking for hope and sanity. We will give it to them.”
In an email sent Tuesday, Ramsey informed the staff of a town-hall-style meeting in the office cafe.
“We are leaving the tables in place,” he wrote, “and with our numbers seriously down there should be plenty of room for you to stand.”
Guidance released by the White House earlier this week calls for people to work from home whenever possible and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. It's not clear how many people are still coming in to work at Ramsey Solutions.
This story first ran in our sister publication the Nashville Scene.