Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto declared a State of Emergency for the County last week, four days before Gov. Bill Lee extended Tennessee’s State of Emergency to Aug. 29 after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases statewide.
Lee’s executive order, which included business restrictions and social distancing guidelines, was set to expire on Tuesday.
The day before Hutto’s announcement, the state health department declared Wilson County a “hot spot” for the virus. Wilson County reported its first virus case mid-March and surpassed 100 cases April 7. On May 23, Wilson County reported 343 cases, which has jumped to 762 cases as of June 29.
Hutto said on June 1, the 14-day average daily number of new cases was 6.9, which increased to 11.4 per day by June 23 and had continued to rise for seven days in a row.
Hutto also noted the county went 25 days — May 12 to June 5 — with no increase in the county’s death total (8) related to the virus, but said the death toll jumped to 15 people in the next 14 days. The virus-related death total increased to 17 over the weekend.
Hutto’s declaration does not place limitations on social gatherings, close nonessential businesses or set a penalty for noncompliance.
Hutto had initially said in his announcement that masks would be required, but did not provide details about how that would be enforced. A few hours later, he issued an announcement that changed the required wearing of masks to a recommendation.
“We want people to stay safe as they resume activities,” Hutto said. “We ask all our businesses to take this very seriously to keep their customers and staff safe by reconsidering the number of people in the business area and by requiring masks in stores and businesses.”
Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said late last week that the Unified Command Group, which oversees the state’s ongoing coronavirus response efforts, identified Wilson and Hamblen counties as new COVID-19 hot spots.
Piercey said the department would work with local leaders in Wilson County to develop and implement plans to reduce the daily number of new cases.
“There are no strict criteria of what defines a ‘hot spot,’ just a general uptick in disease transmission,” said, Bill Christian, Tennessee Department of Health associate director of communications. “State and local public health closely monitor these trends in their communities and statewide. Every case is investigated and contacts informed of their possible exposures. The hot spots should be a reminder that Tennesseans need to do their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes wearing a mask when in public, observing proper distances between individuals in social settings, washing hands frequently, and minimizing trips and contact with others.”
Lee’s executive order on Monday did not include a requirement to wear face coverings, which was mandated in Davidson County on Sunday. That county operates under an independent health department, unlike Wilson County.
The executive order extension limits social gatherings to 50 or fewer people, urges residents to wear a cloth face covering and practice social distancing, urges working remotely when possible and other measures included in the first phase of the state’s reopening plans.
It does not apply to places of worship, for which there are guidelines for safe gatherings, though places of worship are urged to continue virtual or online services where possible. It does not apply to weddings, funerals and related events, but encourages postponement of large events.
The extension limits contact sports, but it does not apply to college or pro sports because they have their own governing organizations.
Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin said the executive order extension will not affect the city’s July 4 fireworks show, scheduled for Saturday at the youth baseball/softball fields on Lebanon Road. Martin said spectators are encouraged to watch from their cars to meet social distancing guidelines.
The state reported 42,297 cases Monday, an increase of 2,125 cases from Sunday, while 26,962 people recovered from the coronavirus.
COVID-19 testing is available at the Wilson County Fairgrounds, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. This testing will be provided at no cost, and people can remain in their vehicle. Enter the fairgrounds through the Tennessee Boulevard entrance. Masks are available at the Wilson County Health Department at 927 East Baddour Parkway in Lebanon Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Contact the health department at (615) 444-5325.