Q&A: What does the stay-at-home order mean for Tennessee residents?

Residents can still go to some stores but are advised to stay at home as much as possible. (Community Impact Staff)
Residents can still go to some stores but are advised to stay at home as much as possible. (Community Impact Staff)

Residents can still go to some stores but are advised to stay at home as much as possible. (Community Impact Staff)

As the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb, local officials are asking residents to help slow the spread throughout the region.

Residents in Middle Tennessee are under a stay-at-home order until at least midnight April 14, meaning they are to stay at home unless conducting essential business. Gov. Bill Lee announced the order April 2. Some local cities, such as Metro Nashville, have extended those requirements until midnight April 24.

Lee had previously issued a “safer-at-home” call to urge residents to voluntarily close business and practice social distancing, but he later called for stricter requirements after data from traffic patterns showed travel in the area was increasing. However, the order is still not a shelter-in-place mandate, according to the order text.

For all of the below activities, individuals should ensure they are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which call for individuals to maintain a distance of 6 feet from others, not to gather in groups of more than 10 people, to wash hands and frequently touched surfaces often and to avoid social gatherings and contact with people who are sick.

What is an essential trip?

For residents wondering what is considered an “essential” errand, the governor’s office has released a list of what is considered essential activity.

  • Seeking emergency medical services or getting non-elective medical care

  • Providing or receiving carryout or delivery of food

  • Caring for a friend or family member that is ill, provided health guidelines are followed

  • Buying food and medicine

  • Picking up educational materials from local educational institutions

  • Traveling to and outside the state of Tennessee

What can stay open?

The governor is calling for all nonessential businesses to close; however, some businesses are still allowed to operate while following health guidelines.

  • Restaurants offering to-go orders only

  • Clinics, dentists and other doctor’s offices

  • Veterinary offices

  • Stores that sell supplies for people working from home

  • Day cares and long-term care facilities

  • Food and beverage production

  • Construction services

  • Stores or businesses other than grocery stores that offer food or medicine, such as certified farmers markets, convenience stores, pet stores, pharmacies and liquor stores

  • Gas stations

  • Hardware and supply stores

  • Plumbers, electricians, cleaners and pest control companies

What must close?

Nonessential businesses are being asked to close brick-and-mortar sites until the order is lifted. While the order does provide for some businesses to continue in virtual capacities only, the following businesses are not permitted to continue in-person business.

  • Gyms and fitness studios

  • Salons and barbershops

  • Bars that do not offer food

  • Entertainment venues

  • Businesses that cannot operate with fewer than 10 people on premises

Are local governments still functioning?

Local government is considered an essential service and can still function under the stay-at-home order; however, many local government employees are working from home. Residents are advised to call city offices for services rather than going to local city halls.

What is being done to ensure businesses comply?

Local law enforcement officials as well as certain county departments have the power to fine violators under the order if they do not close their business or if they do not operate as stated in the order guidelines. Local cities, such as Metro Nashville, Franklin and Brentwood, have announced compliance requirements stating that any businesses that violate orders to close are subject to citations. Businesses found to be in noncompliance will first be warned, and if noncompliance continues, they will be issued a citation.

Can I still go outside?

Residents can still go outside to walk in neighborhoods and parks provided they do not gather in groups and that they maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing. However, many park facilities, such as playgrounds and dog parks, have closed and should be avoided.

Do I need to wear a mask when I leave my house?

As of April 3, the CDC is recommending that vulnerable individuals—those who could become seriously ill if infected—should wear cloth masks in public. Residents should avoid using medical-grade masks to help conserve supplies for health care professionals; however, residents can make masks at home using household materials. Masks are also recommended in settings where social distancing may be difficult, such as the grocery store.

Masks should be washed after each use, and hands should be washed after removing the masks. Find more information and instructions on how to make homemade masks here.
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.