HERE’S WHY NO OFFICIAL COVID-19 ACTION BEING TAKEN BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT

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Today, Cumberland County is reported to have six COVID-19 cases.  Many are asking why Cumberland County government and Crossville City Government aren’t implementing orders locally to ‘stay home’. The main reason is our local governments actually don’t have the power to do so. It must come from the State.

Some counties in Tennessee have more power than others to implement a stay-home directive. Cumberland is not one of them.

Tennessee state code says the commissioner of health has the power to declare quarantine whenever they “determine the welfare of the public requires it.”

In addition, county health officers can order quarantine if they find “that such control is necessary to protect the public health from an epidemic.”

But of the state’s 95 county health departments, only six are operated by local governments. The other 89 operate under the direct supervision of the Tennessee Department of Health, according to TDH.

That means only the six independently-run health departments in Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan counties can enact and enforce their own quarantine policies.

So far, Shelby, Davidson and Knox counties have issued “safer at home” orders.

STATEMENT ISSUE BY CUMBERLAND CO MAYOR ALLEN FOSTER

You are safer at home! Please stay home to the greatest extent possible.

As of this writing, I have been notified by the TN Department of Health (TDH) that six residents of Cumberland County have tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.  The patients have been placed in quarantine and are recovering at home.  Contact tracing is standard in these cases.  That is all the information that has been released at this time.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Our local Emergency Management Agency is in charge of coordinating the purchase of PPE for health care providers.  Note, EMA does NOT coordinate this for individuals, only for health care providers.  If you are a health care provider and are in need of PPE, please contact the EMA at 931-484-7016.

Safer at Home
As with many other issues during the COVID-19 outbreak, we are in unchartered territory when it comes to the authority granted to County Mayors in Tennessee.  We are fielding many questions about a “Safer at Home” type of order from my office so I thought I’d take a minute to explain the current understanding of the situation for counties with the traditional structure of government that do not operate their local Health Department.

I have talked to our County Attorney regarding a “Safer at Home” type of order on several occasions.  He has discussed the situation with various other lawyers and government associations.  I have discussed it with other County Mayors as well as our state legislators. We have been informed that the clearest authority for these types of actions lies with the Governor and the Department of Health.  This article is worth reading because it gives a brief overview and details the current thoughts on the subject.

As I have stated before, this is a fluid situation.  The laws of the State of Tennessee weren’t necessarily written with this specific situation in mind and most county authority only extends to unincorporated areas.  There are many more details and nuances that are being worked through, but I am staying in contact with those that are working on this issue in the event something changes.

With that in mind, please remember that you are “Safer at Home”, requirement or not.  Stay home as much as possible until the State and Federal government asks us to do otherwise.  Practice social distancing.  Wash your hands!  EVERYONE NEEDS to follow the President’s 15 days to slow the spread as well as the Executive Orders from our Governor!  Check out my Public Service Announcement here.

Thank you for being part of the solution, and thank you for the opportunity to serve as your County Mayor.  If you are interested in following the events of the county, please subscribe to my newsletter, and follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Thank you,