NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV)--Governor Bill Lee is now ordering Tennesseans to stay at home following data showing increased activity among citizens.
Executive Order 23 calls on residents to stay home unless they are conducting essential activities. The governor said he's signing the order to "get these numbers back down."
ALSO READ: LIST: Essential activities under Tennessee Governor Bill Lee's stay at home order
“Over the last few weeks, we have seen decreases in movement around the state as Tennesseans socially distance and stay at home,” said Gov. Lee. “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 cited comes from the Tennessee Department of Transportation's analysis of traffic patterns for March. According to data beginning on March 30, it indicates travel is trending upward. The administration also analyzed cell phone movement data from the company Unacast, which also shows the movement of Tennesseans is trending toward pre-COVID-19 levels.
Previously reported on by FOX 17 News, Unacast is a Norwegian company which tracks real time GPS data, publishing a map of the movements of people across the globe during a time where 'social distancing' has been urged by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The report had previously given the state a 'B' grade on March 25 but now gives the state a 'D' grade.
Only Davidson, Williamson, and Sevier counties received grades of 'B' or better for social distancing according to the data. A majority of counties received 'D' grades, with Campbell, Cocke, DeKalb, Greene, Grundy, Haywood, Humphreys, Jackson, Jefferson, Lake, Marion, Polk, and Scott counties receiving 'F' grades.
Gov. Lee again referenced a coming "surge" in expected COVID-19 cases, stating “The month of April stands to be an extremely tough time for our state as we face the potential for a surge in COVID-19 cases."
The order will remain in effect today through April 14, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
The decision by Gov. Lee comes on the same day it was announced former Tennessee U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist joined a petition by doctors and residents calling on Lee to issue such an order.
The order also comes 10 days after 2,000 doctors launched a petition calling for the action - 31,000 ended up signing it. Dr. Aaron Milstone, a pulmonary specialist treating COVID-19 patients in Tennessee, believes the order is a testament to the power of healthcare professionals and residents who make their voices heard.
“This movement showed that — despite our differences — when people come together, we can make change that saves lives,” Milstone said. “And beating this pandemic is going to take all of us doing just that: setting politics and our differences aside, following the science and advice of health experts, and all working together.”
But during the administration's daily briefing on Thursday, Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey expressed that the worst is yet to come.
"April will be a very serious month," Dr. Piercey commented.
She warned the rate of cases will grow. So far, there have been more than 34,000 tests administered.
Governor Lee added the peak need for resources to address the pandemic is still unclear based on models but referenced his previous statement it would likely be somewhere "in the third week of April."
Lee added he is "proud of the way many Tennesseans have taken this seriously" in terms of those who have adhered to staying at home but added "its hard to know why " the latest trend shows Tennesseans have become mobile again, leading to Thursday's order. The governor says the trend first appeared about five days ago and the office tracked the data which continued to rise, especially in the last two days, proving it was a trend and not an anomaly."
The executive order remains in effect until April 14 at 11:59 p.m.