Safer at Home order issued in Sullivan

J. H. Osborne • Mar 30, 2020 at 5:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE —  A “Safer at Home Health Order” has been issued for Sullivan County by Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department. The order was delivered to Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable, Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull, Bristol Mayor Margaret Feierabend, and Bluff City Mayor Irene Wells, asking for the order to be “ratified by your respective governing bodies or your signature.”

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable issued a disaster proclamation this afternoon declaring a state of emergency, making effective the county’s emergency operations plan, and that all assets of the county and cities within “are to be made available for response to the needs of the citizens.”

The proclamation states “COVID-19 outbreak has begun to affect the entirety of Sullivan County which has and will continue to affect the health and welfare of the citizens of this community.”

Shull endorsed the Safer at Home Health Order put in place by the SCRHD by signing Executive Order 20-01 Proclaiming a Local and Civil Emergency within the City of Kingsport. The Mayor’s signature will be ratified at the electronically conducted called Board of Mayor and Aldermen business meeting tomorrow, March 31, at 7:00 p.m.

Feierabend and City Manager Bill Sorah also issued an Executive Order proclaiming a local and civil emergency within the City of Bristol, Tennessee.

“Many of our friends and neighbors still seemingly have a false sense of security about the impact that the coronavirus could have here in Sullivan County, perhaps due to our case numbers appearing relatively low compared with other parts of the state,” said Feierabend. “The reality is that we all must take serious steps now to avoid a more dire situation in the future.”

The letter regarding Dr. May’s “Safer at Home Health Order’ was sent to the mayors by Sullivan County Regional Health Department Director Gary Mayes, with a “guidance document” attached “to help you with questions from citizens.”

“We believe this Order is necessary to help protect the public health of all citizens in Sullivan County,” Mayes wrote.


“Residents of Sullivan County are required to stay inside their homes unless they are engaged in certain ‘essential activities.’ On those occasions when you are out of your home for necessary tasks, stay at least six feet away from others.”


• Go to the grocery, convenience or warehouse store.

• Go to the pharmacy to pick up medications and other healthcare necessities.

• Go to medical appointments (check with your doctor or provider first).

• Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery or drive-thru.

• Care for or support a friend or family member.

• Take a walk, ride your bike, hike, jog and be in nature for exercise — just keep at least six feet between you and others.

• Walk your pets and take them to the veterinarian if necessary.

• Help someone to get necessary supplies.

• Receive deliveries from any business which delivers.


• Go to work unless you are providing essential services as defined by this Order.

• Visit friends and family if there is no urgent need.

• Maintain less than 6 feet of distance from others when you go out.

• Visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility or other residential care facility, except for limited exceptions as provided on the facility websites.

Is this order mandatory? What happens if I don't comply?

Though this is not a criminally enforceable order, for industries public health has regulatory authority over, SCRHD will be performing spot checks for compliance. For other businesses we are relying on business owners to do the right thing and follow the order.

Why is this happening now?

This Sullivan County Regional Health Department Emergency Order is being issued now because it is urgent that we slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 in Sullivan County.

The virus spreads easily, and this order is also intended to prevent the disease from overwhelming our health care system. The goal here is to "flatten the curve" to slow down the spread of the virus and ensure we have adequate health care resources for those who get sick with COVID-19 and those who need emergency medical care for accidents, heart attacks, strokes, and other routine medical conditions.

What is the difference between "Safer at Home" and "social distancing"?

Safer at home is a stricter form of social distancing. There are some differences. Safer at home means:

• Stay home (stay unexposed and do not expose others).

• Only go out for essential services.

• Stay six feet or more away from others.

• Don't gather in groups.

The other concepts from social distancing will continue to apply when you are out shopping or walking or going to the doctor. These include washing hands, using hand sanitizer, disinfecting surfaces, not going out if sick and staying at least six feet away from others at all times.

When does the order go into effect?

The Order goes into effect 12:01 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

The Sullivan County Regional County Health Department will closely monitor the situation every day to determine the order's duration and any changes that may be necessary.

What are essential activities and which businesses will stay open?

The following essential activities will remain open:

• Federal and state offices and services, including post offices and airports.

• Essential Sullivan County government functions including law enforcement, transportation and businesses that provide government programs and services.

• Food and beverage: grocery and beverage stores, farmers markets, food banks, catering, convenience stores selling food, agriculture, food processing, feed mills and other businesses that directly support the food supply.

• Health care, mental and behavioral health, and biomedical research and businesses that directly support the healthcare industry, including health information technology, staffing and supplies.

• Sanitation and waste removal businesses and services.

• Energy, water and sewage businesses and services..

• Pharmacies and medical supply businesses, and other businesses that directly support the drug and medical supply pipeline.

• Vehicle fuel, support, service stations and businesses.

• Banks, savings and loans, insurance companies, accounting businesses, and other business that directly support the insurance and financial services sector.

• Legal and judicial services.

• Laundromats/laundry/cleaning services.

• Home and business repair, hardware supply.

• Warehousing and storage.

• Construction and facilities design businesses.

• Product logistics, transport and distribution businesses.

• Parcel transportation and delivery businesses.

• Veterinary and pet supply business and services including agricultural services and the caring and feeding of all livestock and farm animals.

• Home and business cleaning and maintenance services.

• All businesses which rely upon deliveries may continue, including florists.

• Internet and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure.. communications, and web-based services)

• Print, online and broadcast media.

In addition:

• Daycare and childcare business will remain open, but will prioritize children of parents working in essential services.

• Hotels and commercial lodges will remain open, but must end entertainment or dining services in restaurants or group settings. Pick-up and room-service food services may continue.

• Housing and rental services may continue, but agents should practice social distancing, hold no open houses, or gather in groups larger than 10.

• Essential services listed above may continue as long as appropriate distancing is physically possible and encouraged. These businesses will adhere to CDC guidance on social distancing.

The Order

This 0rder is being issued to protect the public health of the citizens of Sullivan County, to mitigate the impact of COYID-19, to bend the curve, and to disrupt the spread of the virus, with the goal of saving lives and reducing strain on regional healthcare resources as much as possible.

Citizens of Sullivan County are urged to shelter at home as much as possible. When individuals leave their homes or places of residence, they should practice appropriate social isolation, staying six feet apart, and should assume others are infectious, regardless of whether they exhibit symptoms.

All gatherings are strongly discouraged, and those with more than 10 people are prohibited. Gatherings include any event or convening unrelated to essential services that brings together groups of individuals, including, but not limited to: community, civic, public, leisure, faith­based, or sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals, conventions, fundraisers and similar activities.

City and county parks may remain open. Citizens using these open spaces are directed to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene, remaining 6 feet apart.

Individuals experiencing homelessness, who may include individuals in shelters and homeless encampments, shall not be subject to this order but shall be encouraged to follow CDC guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene.

All businesses not performing essential services shall close their business facilities, subject to exceptions stated in this order. Facilities shall remain accessible as needed to service computer and other equipment, process mail and maintain security.

Nothing in this order shall prohibit any business possessing applicable licenses or permits from conducting deliveries; however, CDC guidance on social distancing shall be followed when possible.

Nothing in this order is intended to prohibit individuals from performing business functions of nonessential businesses from their own homes, provided that such business functions comply with existing law and are only performed by residents of that home.

This order does not apply to activities necessary to maintain continuity of operations of critical infrastructure sectors as outlined at https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure­during-covid-19. As set forth by the Federal Department of Homeland Security in the link above the federal government has identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, economic security, public health or safety, or any combination thereof. Individuals working in these 16 critical infrastructure sectors may continue their work because of the importance of these sectors to the health and well-being of individuals residing or working in Sullivan County.

Daycare and childcare business shall prioritize children of parents working for essential infrastructure sectors, businesses or service providers to the extent practicable.

Assisted living facilities, nursing homes, adult daycare centers, home health businesses, and senior residential facilities shall follow CDC guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene to the extent practicable. Non-essential social and educational programs at senior citizen and other assisted living communities and centers shall end until further notice.

Hotels, short term rental properties, commercial lodges, and dormitories shall cease entertainment or dine-in services, subject to allowing food and beverage pick-up and room­ service.

Essential services, especially grocery stores and pharmacies, shall make best efforts to establish hours of operations during which their services are available only to senior citizens or otherwise vulnerable populations.

Essential services shall continue to adhere to CDC guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene in the workplace, including encouraging work-from-home and allowing employees when possible to work on-site in shifts to optimize social distancing in the workplace, where possible.

Essential services are encouraged to utilize, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work-from-home procedures they can safely utilize.

If any provision, sentence, clause, phrase, or word, of this Order or any application of it to any individual, business, or circumstance is held to be invalid by a decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, then such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining p011ions or applications of this Order.








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