March 30, 2020
On March 29, 2020, President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, projected up to 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. Federal social distancing guidelines have been extended until April 30, 2020. All Americans should avoid groups of ten (10) or more people, avoid all discretionary travel and consider canceling all home social visits. Older residents should stay home. Additionally, all Americans should follow CDC and WHO recommendations, including, but not limited to, frequent handwashing. On March 22, our Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order 17 which, among other things, shuttered gyms and fitness/exercise centers and mandated restaurants be take out or delivery only.
I, as Mayor, have been asked why I have not issued a “Shelter in Place” order like Davidson/Metro and Rutherford Counties and the City of Franklin. The answer is that City staff, including, but not limited to, our legal department, have determined that I simply do not have the power to do so under either state law or our City Charter. The power to issue a “Shelter in Place” order rests with our Governor and only with our Governor.
With regards to a Declaration of Emergency, Tenn. Code Ann. §58-2-100 provides for certain emergency management powers that, if needed, we will not hesitate to call upon. Please note, however, as stated above, none of these powers consists of shuttering private enterprise or ordering citizens to shelter in place. In fact, the only Emergency Powers that might enable a “Shelter in Place” order or permit the forceable closure of private enterprise fall under Title 38 of the state code, however, Title 38 on its face does not apply in cases of an epidemic or pandemic, but instead only in cases of natural disaster, such as an earthquake or flood.
I offer the foregoing because I want you all to know your local municipal government is taking this situation very seriously. While the stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19 is understandable, the rule of law is also of the utmost importance and, to the best of our ability, we will continue to comport City business within the confines of law while we battle COVID-19 together.
Rick Graham, Mayor