Bill Lee - State of the State - 2019

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State Address Monday, March 4, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) — Governor Bill Lee has signed Executive Order 23, which requires Tennesseans to stay home unless they are engaged in essential activities.

The order will remain in effect until April 14, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Lee said he signed the order due to data showing an "increase in citizen movement across the state."

Doctors and healthcare professionals have been pleading the governor to take this action as COVID-19 cases in Tennessee continue to rise. The Tennessee Medical Association released a statement after Lee announced the move. You can read the TMA statement here.

“Over the last few weeks, we have seen decreases in movement around the state as Tennesseans socially distance and stay at home,” Lee said in a news release. “However, in recent days we have seen data indicating that movement may be increasing and we must get these numbers trending back down. I have updated my previous executive order to clearly require that Tennesseans stay at home unless they are carrying out essential activities.”

The data Lee referred to was provided by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which analyzed traffic patterns and found that although there was a "steep" drop-off in traffic from March 13 to 29, it has begun to increase again.

Traffic in TN during COVID-19

Photo provided by Governor Bill Lee's office

Lee noted that April will be an "extremely tough time" for the state. “Every Tennessean must take this seriously, remain at home and ensure we save lives," the governor said.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart praised the governor's executive order but said it was "long overdue:"

This action was long overdue but it is the right thing to do and I’m glad that he is doing it. Now we need to work on a coordinated plan that expands testing across the state, provides adequate personal, protective gear for our health care workers and addresses the financial crisis facing many Tennesseans.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton praised Lee’s decision, too:

I fully support Gov. Lee’s decision requiring all citizens to remain at home unless they are carrying out essential activities as we continue working together to further mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in Tennessee. We have been, and we will remain flexible as we continue to receive additional data and input from medical experts as we fight to reduce the projected strain on our health care system, and keep our citizens, their families and communities across this state safe. A healthy economy starts with having healthy Tennesseans.

Lt. Governor Randy McNally also commended Lee's move:

As the peak of the COVID crisis approaches, it is more important than ever that we flatten the curve and prevent a run on needed resources. Governor Lee has consistently been committed to a data-focused approach and he has proven it again today. The numbers don't lie and it is clear at this moment a stronger mandate is needed. I appreciate Governor Lee's ability to adapt to this fluid situation. He is doing everything in his power to both save lives and minimize economic disruption. I applaud his efforts. I support this order. And I implore all Tennesseans to stay at home and stay apart.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicted Tennessee would exceed its hospital bed capacity on April 9. Those projections were determined before Gov. Lee issued the safer-at-home order. IHME has not updated their charts, which you can see here. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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Multimedia Producer

Kyle is a Multimedia Producer at WSMV. He is a proud graduate of Virginia Tech, where he majored in multimedia journalism with a minor in psychology. Send news tips to

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