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As the COVID-19 outbreak intensifies nationwide, leaders in our region are implementing drastic measures to combat the spread of the virus. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger announced a state of emergency in the county Monday afternoon and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued several executive orders in response to the pandemic

There is not a shelter-in-place order issued for the state of Tennessee or surrounding regions, but a recent poll finds an overwhelming majority of Times Free Press readers are participating in social distancing and doing so out of extreme concern about the coronavirus outbreak. 

More than 91 percent of the more than 3,100 Times Free Press readers who responded to an email survey last week said they were practicing a form of social distancing. The result is derived from safety measures issued throughout the country to temporarily suspend group gatherings. 

This past week, Gov. Lee issued an executive order banning social gatherings of 10 people or more and prohibiting on-site consumption of food or drinks at restaurants. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke also signed an executive order mandating non-essential businesses in the city to temporarily close. The executive order in Chattanooga is being enforced by police, the fire marshal and city building officials. 

Among those practicing social distancing, readers were also surveyed on how concerned they were about the pandemic, with over 60 percent surveyed as being extremely concerned. 

More than half of the total response came from adults aged 65 years and older, one of the most at-risk groups in relation to the virus. Vanessa McDaniel, a local teacher, is one of many who has family members that are considered more vulnerable.  

"I'm definitely concerned about my parents and my in-laws, at first I felt like my parents weren't taking it seriously and they weren't understanding the situation." McDaniel said. "My dad still works, but my sister and I have teamed up and we've talked to my mom. Now she's staying at home and she's not even going to the grocery store."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults may be at a higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19. Widespread efforts are taking place to accommodate seniors who need to do essentials tasks, such as grocery shopping. 

"My in-laws are also in their late 60's and early 70's," McDaniel added. "They're both retired and their lives have drastically changed. As retirees, they would go to the YMCA and out to lunch everyday and they're not doing any of that now."

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