Stubbornness forced a harsher order in Tennessee

Johnson City Press • Apr 3, 2020 at 8:30 AM

Sometimes pure foolishness and the disregard for one other forces uncomfortable — and maybe maddening to some — actions.

For weeks medical professionals across the globe have preached social distancing. Stay a minimum 6 feet from your fellow man. Do not gather in groups of more than 10 (and some have suggested five). It’s all in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

But with all the messaging and all of the literal pleading from those seeing the devastation of this disease first hand, some insist on ignoring the stark, deadly reality and going about their lives as if they are invincible (none of us are) and proving they couldn’t care less about anyone else.

Because of the selfish, the city of Johnson City decided this week to remove the rims from basketball goals at city parks. Those basketball courts had become a gathering — note the word “gathering” — place for youth and some adults. “Gathering” is the last thing people need to do right now. You can’t play basketball and simultaneously practice social distancing. For those unacquainted with the game, basketball is a contact sport.

But it’s not just basketball. People still continue to crowd together as if the world is the same place it was 60 days ago. Surely they know better, right? Either they truly don’t care about themselves, their families, their neighbors and their coworkers, or they’re blissfully ignorant. Maybe is a little of both.

Either way, the continued actions by every government entity from Washington, D.C., to our local municipalities have been forced to enact measures designed to keep people from gathering. Call it Safer At Home. Call it Shelter At Home. It’s the same message. If you don’t need to go out for food, medicine or to go to work at a designated “essential” business, you are asked to stay home. By minimizing contact and gathering, we minimize the chances of spreading COVID-19.

It has been truly rare in the last 100 years that federal, state and local governments acted to limit activities in the public arena, but this is and must be "a wartime mentality," as U.S. Rep. Phil Roe puts it. While those who have served in a wartime setting may think those words a little strong, Representative Roe simply is sending a message conveying the severity of the battle we are in with COVID-19. Thousands of lives are at stake.

In Virginia, by Gov. Ralph Northam's order, all public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 people including parties, celebrations, religious, or other social events, whether they occur indoor or outdoor, are a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.

On Thursday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee upgraded his “safer at home” directive issued earlier in the week to a “stay home” order. The order requires people to stay home except for essential business. He gave local law enforcement agencies the flexibility of enforcing compliance “in their own way.” That could include citations and arrests.

The stricter order happened because residents continued to thumb their noses at the medical community and their fellow man and refuse to participate in measures to flatten the curve of infections.

Lee cited data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation that analyzed recent traffic patterns. While safer at home measures and further restrictions on businesses showed a steep drop-off in vehicle movement from March 13-29, data beginning on March 30 indicated travel was trending upward, again.

As Bristol Mayor Margaret Feierabend says, “Many of our friends and neighbors still seemingly have a false sense of security about the impact that the coronavirus could have ... The reality is that we all must take serious steps now to avoid a more dire situation in the future.”

It's up to government how long these orders and declarations stay in place, but they are absolutely necessary if society is to stop the spread of COVID-19. And it's up to you and your family to abide by them, for your sake and for the sake of others. It's going to be tough, but if you establish a routine which includes appropriate outdoor exercise, the time will pass until we see an end to the spread of the disease.

Social distancing and staying home are at the center of the fight to save lives and it is vital that you keep your distance from others. That can’t be said enough and it can’t be practiced enough.