How Williamson County, Tennessee responded to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020

Throughout the past several months, Williamson County has been working to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with testing, and now, vaccines. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)
Throughout the past several months, Williamson County has been working to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with testing, and now, vaccines. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)

Throughout the past several months, Williamson County has been working to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with testing, and now, vaccines. (Wendy Sturges/Community Impact Newspaper)

Much of 2020 has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic as state and local governments work to enact policy meant to slow the spread of the virus, while businesses and schools respond to the effects of closures. Take a look back at some key events from the past year.

Tennessee's first case of coronavirus confirmed in Williamson County

On March 5, Gov. Bill Lee announces the state's first case of coronavirus is confirmed in Williamson County. At the time, the risk of spreading the virus to the public was deemed to be low.

Schools announce first closures

Following spring break, officials with Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District announced schools would remain closed through March 9.

Lee declares statewide state of emergency

Following confirmation of the virus in Tennessee, Lee issues a state of emergency and announces the state will begin testing for the virus. At the time, the Tennessee Department of Heath had the capacity to test about 500 people.

Lee calls for schools to close

Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District announce they will close through at least April 3.

Local cities declare state of emergency

The cities of Franklin and Brentwood issue state of emergency orders, calling on restaurants to offer take-out only and for all nonessential trips to pause.

Unemployment spikes by 1,300% in Tennessee

In late March, the state saw 39,000 new unemployment claims in one week as businesses scrambled to cope with closures and furloughs.

Lee issues stay-at-home order

To help slow the spread of the virus, which at the time had been confirmed in 77 counties, Lee announced he would enact a safer-at-home order, calling for all nonessential business to close for a 14-day period.

"We need you to stay home where at all possible," Lee said.

Williamson County begins COVID-19 testing

On April 6, county officials announced COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites would open through the county.

Schools close for remainder of academic year

Following a recommendation from Lee, Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District announce campuses would remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

Stay-at-home order expires, COVID-19 testing moves

Lee announces April 20 that after several weeks, Tennessee's safer-at-home order will expire April 30. Williamson County announced COVID-19 testing will now be held at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center on Long Lane.

County issues first mask mandate

Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson issues the county's first mask mandate as cases continue to rise that the start of summer. The order was later extended to Aug. 29.

Williamson County gears up for return to school

After weeks of deliberation, Williamson County Schools approves its back-to-school plan, which includes option for students to learn virtually or on-campus, but allows the district to change protocols depending on case counts. Franklin Special School District approved a similar plan.

Students return to on-campus learning

Citing dropping COVID-19 metrics, Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District opt to allow students to return to on-campus learning in late August.

Cases see decline after summer surge

In late summer and early fall, active cases of coronavirus saw a drop, mostly due to a change in reporting from the TDH. Williamson County opts to let its mask mandate expire.

Schools address time, knowledge lost

With school back in session, officials and staff at Williamson County Schools began taking steps to address learning loss associated with the pandemic. At the time, studies showed learning loss could be as high as 49%.

Lee lifts business restrictions

After about seven months of restrictions on businesses to slow the spread of the virus, Lee announced Sept. 29 restrictions on businesses would be lifted in 89 counties, including Williamson. At the time, TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said the state may reassess restrictions if positive coronavirus cases spike again.

Mask mandate returns

On Oct. 22, Anderson announced the county's mask mandate would be reinstated, citing rising case numbers.

Williamson County extends mask mandate through end of 2020

Citing another rise in active COVID-19 cases, Anderson issued an extension to its previous mask mandate, calling for residents to continue wearing masks through the end of the calendar year. The mandate was later extended again to last through at least Feb. 27, 2021.

Health care providers, education officials issue warnings about holiday rise in cases

Officials with Williamson County Schools and local hospitals, including Williamson Medical Center, expressed concern over possible rises as people gather for holidays as cases in Williamson County reach a new all-time high.

Lee limits gatherings as cases surge

Just before Christmas, Lee issued an executive order limiting gatherings to 10 people through Jan. 19.

Vaccinations begin in Williamson County

Front line workers and first responders began receiving the vaccine as active cases numbers continued to climb following the holiday season.
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


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