COVID-19: Stay at Home Order Issued, Drive Through Testing Starts in Knox County and More

Inspirational Message at the Bijou, Knoxville, March 27, 2020
Inspirational Message at the Bijou, Knoxville, March 27, 2020

Too much is happening to cram into the afternoon summary article, so this morning let’s take a look at a major development and a major event happening today and tomorrow.

Yesterday, Governor Lee issued Executive Order Number 23, which was an amendment of Executive Order 22, simply replacing one paragraph of the previous order. More specifically, it changed one word. The order previously used the word “urged” and it now uses the word “required.” Here is the paragraph:

Safer at home. Because staying at home as much as possible for a temporary period of time will protect the health and safety of Tennesseans by limiting the spread of COVID-19 and preserving health care resources, all persons in Tennessee are urged to stay at home, except for when engaging in Essential Activity or Essential Services as defined in this Order.

In essence, it means nothing has changed if you’ve been observing the previous request to stay at home unless you are doing something essential. If, however, you’ve been hanging out with friends walking down the street, gathering in big groups, having house parties, neighborhood gatherings and so on, you can now be forced to stop or suffer consequences. Parks also remain open.

Here is Mayor Kincannon’s statement on the revision:

Governor Bill Lee’s Stay at Home Order is a necessary measure to help protect lives in Tennessee and avoid overloading our medical facilities.  Watching the number of COVID-19 cases spread rapidly across the state reinforces that we all need to take every step possible to slow the spread of this virus.  Tomorrow Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, Dr. Martha Buchanan and I will be meeting with Governor Lee here in Knoxville, and we will discuss the best ways to enforce this mandate.”

So, the same list of essential businesses that were allowed to operate under the previous order may continue operating. You can still take a walk with or without a dog. Just not with friends. One of the groups assembled for today’s White House conference made the point that the ten person limit that is referenced doesn’t mean you can have a dinner party as long as you limit it to ten. It’s assuming these are people who live together or perhaps or family.

Everyone has small decisions to make even within these parameters. Our family made the decision nearly three weeks ago that we would not gather. We’ve not seen our grandchildren since, other than to yell from the street to their porch. The more we stick with only those with whom we live, the sooner this ends and the fewer people die.

I have seen discussion in the media about the order that Governor DeSantis issued in Florida, which allows for religious services as “essential.” President Trump was asked about it and simply repeated that Governor DeSantis is a great guy doing a great job. It will be interesting to see if Governor Lee gets similarly challenged. Under “essential services,” meaning those exempted from closures, on page nine is the following:

9. Religious and Ceremonial Functions. This includes, but is not limited to: religious facilities, entities, groups, personnel, services, rites, and gatherings, including weddings and funerals, provided that the Health Guidelines set forth in Executive Order No. 22 are followed to the greatest extent practicable;

In other words, churches are legally allowed to meet as long as they are as compliant as is practical.

State grading for at Home Compliance, Unacast

Finally, on this topic, an interesting piece of information that came out of this article was that the state has been monitoring our movements. They’ve monitored car movements and cellphone movements. They used this data to confirm that after an initial slowdown, activity had steadily increased and people are not staying at home.

At least some of the data was provided by a company called Unacast, which developed the map shown here grading states by how well they are following orders to stay in place. Tennessee gets a “D.” On their site, linked above, the map is interactive. Clicking the state enlarges it and yields county data which reveals that the urban counties are fairly compliant while the rural counties are going about their business as normal.

Drive-Thru Testing

The big event happening today and tomorrow is drive through testing being offered by the Knox County Health Department in cooperation with Kroger and the City of Knoxville. It is offered for Knox County residents and will take place from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3 and Saturday, April 4 in the Zoo Knoxville parking lot (3500 Knoxville Zoo Drive).

To be tested, individuals must meet CDC guidelines for testing, which include fever, shortness of breath, chills, cough, or recent exposure to someone diagnosed with COVID-19; be approved by Kroger Health prior to the testing dates; and have an appointment.

To request an appointment, Knox County residents should call Kroger Health (The Little Clinic) at 1-888-837-8852 (1-888-TEST TLC) and answer a few questions about your symptoms. If approved, a Kroger Health Call Center Associate will call you back to confirm your appointment and take additional information.

Individuals who are approved for testing must bring a valid ID and their appointment verification to the testing location. There is no charge to individuals and insurance status is not a barrier for testing.

Individuals in Knox County who meet clinical guidelines and high-risk criteria and/or are uninsured may continue to be tested through the Knox County Health Department. To be tested in this manner, Knox County residents must call 865-215-5555 before they can be approved and scheduled for testing. Specimen collection is still done by drive-thru process at the health department when possible. Currently, walk-in testing is unavailable.

Knoxville Page Co-Founder Anthony Ragland presents a check to Alanna McKissack of Keep Knoxville Beautiful, December 2019

And a Final Couple of Words

I mentioned in one of the recent articles that a friend’s father, who lived in New York, had died of COVID-19. That friend is my business partner, Anthony Ragland, with whom I joined to co-found Knoxville Page about this time last year. He’s decided to tell his story and you can read that in our latest newsletter here.

In that same newsletter, you’ll also read that we have stopped our billing to the businesses that have signed up for our service until this crisis passes. The intention from the beginning was to help small businesses by providing a more even playing field on the Internet. The site includes a searchable database loaded with over 1500 locally owned businesses. Some had signed up for keyword ownership and more elaborate pages. We are waiving their monthly fees during this crisis. Please use the search engine to find local businesses and support them.

Additionally, we had a vision of a one-stop spot for local businesses to sell gift cards. It’s easy to find a kiosk selling national gift cards, but buying local gift cards is a one-business-at-a-time process. Another advantage for corporations and big chains. The site for gift cards is here and you’ll find 10 locally owned businesses listed, offering physical gift cards, e-gift cards, and/or gift certificates.

From the beginning, we retained 12% of each sale, with 3% directly going to processing with Stripe. We are now, and for the duration of this crisis, waiving our 12% and paying the processing fees out of our own pocket, meaning 100% of the purchase goes to the local business. Please make purchases here or on the sites of your favorite local businesses to help them through this difficult time.

If your business would like to have your cards included, whether you do not have an online platform from which to sell them, or you’d like to aggregate with others to offer a second spot where you might be found, contact Anthony at Let us help you through this difficult time.

I will also begin gift card giveaways starting next week. Look for that and let’s all support local businesses.