While many states with democrat governors ponder ways to extend the lock down of free American citizens, Gov. Bill Lee has announced that Tennessee will not extend the stay at home order past April 30.
Moreover, at least two other southern states have reopened, with plans for more.
In South Carolina, stores will open at 20% capacity, or 5 people per 1,000 square feet. The state has reported 4,439 infections and 124 deaths.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, this week announced the vast majority of his state’s businesses will be allowed to reopen on May 1. Some businesses may be able to reopen as soon as Monday, the governor said. At least 7,238 residents have contracted the virus and 152 have died.
In Alaska — with at least 321 cases and 9 deaths — GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced he intends to relax some of the state’s restrictions this week, allowing some businesses — such as restaurants and hair salons — to reopen.
“We’re going to try to do everything we can to move Alaska back and get Alaskans back to work,” Dunleavy said.
The Tennessean reported:
“For the good of our state, social distancing must continue, but our economic shutdown cannot,” Lee said at his Monday afternoon briefing.
A governor-appointed, 30-member economic recovery group is working with industry leaders to ensure that some businesses can reopen as early as Monday, April 27.
But the green light to quickly reopen businesses doesn’t necessarily extend to Tennessee’s largest cities, where local authorities must still determine when restrictions can be eased.
Lee’s office said it will work with Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan counties — all of which operate their own health departments, unlike the other 89 counties with state-run county health agencies — as they plan their own re-open strategies.
It’s unclear when Tennessee’s major cities plan to lift their own local restrictions on business and activity.
“We plan to keep the same social distancing guidelines in place even beyond and into the next few weeks,” Lee said when asked about whether large gatherings will be allowed to resume around the state.
His announcement came as governors in Georgia and South Carolina on Monday afternoon also announced they were repealing closure orders on some businesses in the state. Lee on Saturday took part in a call with governors from those states, along with the Republican governors of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
Lee said this office has not yet determined what types of businesses will be targeted to reopen first next week.
“The most important thing to me is that people can get back to work and businesses can begin to reopen,” Lee said. “The economic difficulty that’s been created by this, it has been devastating to our state, and the sooner we can begin to change that picture, the better.”
As for what type of action Lee plans to take if there is a new surge in coronavirus cases once the state resumes its normal activity, the governor said the state will work with local health departments “to make adjustments needed in that region.”
A second round of protesters stood outside the Tennessee Capitol on Monday, the day after a larger group had crowded together waving flags and shouting for Lee to lift restrictions and allow the state to return to work.
But the vocal group of rightwing rally-goers aren’t the only ones who have called on the governor to act to immediately reopen Tennessee for business. Some state legislators are too.
[Look at the wording…. “the vocal group of rightwing rally-goers,”… why not use the words “concerned citizens” or… “liberty advocates”? The reason is quite plain to many people.]
“I’d like to see it done today,” said. Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, as he stood among roughly 100 protesters on Monday.
“I’d like to see the governor and the government make suggestions and offer advice, rather than set forth mandatory orders telling us what to do.”
Daniel, who said he was already in Nashville for other business, has been among a group of Republicans in the General Assembly who have expressed impatience throughout the past couple weeks with continued restrictions on commerce and activity in the state in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lee, who received support in his 2018 election by a conservative base impressed with his political-outsider status and calls for a system of small government, has faced harsh criticism in recent weeks from a vocal group of dissenters.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, has been vocal on social media about the need to get Tennesseans back to work and their usual activities.
“I would love to see us open up today,” Faison said Monday.
“If it depended on me, I’d be willing to risk getting COVID if it meant us being able to have Tennessee back open and have our constitutional rights,” Faison said. “We can run full throttle, just being careful and cautious with our actions.”
While Faison defended the governor and said Lee has done “as good as he can do” under current circumstances, Faison has felt that restrictions on gatherings have been “decimating to constitutional rights.”
Senate members also have weighed in online in recent days, putting pressure on the governor to act faster.
“It’s time to re-open Tennessee for business,” Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, tweeted Monday morning. “Small businesses are reeling because of the shutdown.”
He noted that Lee had formed the economic recovery group, and that is was time to “get going.”
“Amen amen amen!,” Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon, also tweeted earlier Monday, sharing a link to a blog post by a man who discovered federal stimulus dollars had run out for small business owners like him. “It’s time to reopen business. Many cannot wait any longer.”