CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett and Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts directed citizens to shelter at home except when engaging in essential activities or services, practice social distancing and behave as if other people are infectious.
The direct orders are part of a new round of coordinated local actions taken Tuesday to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The orders will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Essential activities and services are defined in the orders mainly as healthcare, public safety, utilities, government, communications and media, food production and distribution, vehicle fuel and support, and banking.
Under the orders, all gatherings are strongly discouraged, and those with more than 10 people are strictly prohibited. Gatherings include any event unrelated to essential services that brings together groups of people, such as church services and sporting events.
Clarksville City Council members met in a video conference Tuesday evening to approve unanimously the Mayor’s Executive Order No.3
Mayor Pitts noted that for the first time, he and County Mayor Durrett were “directing,” not urging, citizens to shelter at home, and closing non-essential businesses. He also admitted wrestling with the concept of ordering churches not to meet.
“Who am I to tell people not to go to church?” he told the City Council. “But I prayed on this and I believe this is the right thing to do for the next week. It’s a small price to pay, perhaps, to prevent a family from losing a loved one.”
Council members were curious about how the orders would be enforced.
“We will not be heavy handed unless businesses and individuals are disobedient and aggressively defiant,” Mayor PItts said. “But these are legal orders and the City has every right and ability to enforce them.”
City Attorney Lance Baker explained that the Executive Orders are enforceable under state statute and City code.
“We fully expect a high level of voluntary compliance,” Baker said. “But remember, this is all about a public health emergency and necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a deadly pandemic. Our police leadership, Chief Al Ansley and his deputy chiefs, are going to be serious about this.”
People who violate the orders could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and would be subject to citation and fines for each offense, and even arrest if necessary, Baker said.
In the lengthy executive order, a long list of businesses are ordered closed, including hospitality, educational and entertainment venues. Personal appearance businesses, including hair, nail, massage, tattoo, tanning and waxing shops are directed to close.
Online activities and deliveries through these businesses may continue. And previous mandates about restaurants restricting food sales to drive-through and take out operations will remain in place.
Mayor Durrett issued his order Tuesday, and Mayor Pitts issued his after it was approved by the City Council. The orders remain in effect until April 8, at which time the orders can be extended in seven day increments.
As in earlier rounds of coordinated orders during the COVID-19 emergency, Mayors Durrett and Pitts incorporated all of the provisions of Gov. Bill Lee’s executive orders. In this case, however, the local executives chose the wording “citizens are directed to shelter at home,” adding intensity to Lee’s phrase “all persons in Tennessee are urged to stay at home.”
For information on the state and national response to COVID-19 and updates on working together to reduce infections, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html.