Gov. Lee issues statewide order closing 'non-essential' businesses, tells Tennesseans to stay home during COVID-19 crisis

Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / Gov. Bill Lee speaks at Chattanooga's Volkswagen assembly plant last October. On Sunday, Lee issued an executive order that government bodies must make reasonable efforts to conduct their business meetings online, preferably livestreamed so the public can stay informed and involved.

NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Monday announced two new executive orders that step up the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic by ordering closures of "non-essential" businesses while also strongly urging state residents to remain largely at home unless necessary.

In doing so, the Republican governor follows the lead of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and counterparts in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, as well as some 25 other state governors in issuing "safer at home" orders. Those vary widely.

Lee's action comes at the urging of frantic physicians who are battling potential COVID-19 cases as Tennessee's rate of infection continues to climb. The infection rate rose substantially over the week during a COVID-19 outbreak at a nursing home in Sumner County. The Associated Press reported the state has confirmed 74 residents tested positive and were transported to a hospital for treatment and 33 workers with confirmed cases were confined to their homes.