Gov. Bill Lee has provided additional information on his Executive Order 70 that seeks to try to limit social gatherings to 10 people, and he has extended the amount of time county mayors may mandate masks.
The order against gatherings lists a number of exceptions and does not mention an enforcement mechanism for people who do not follow his order.
Lee has been blaming the COVID-19 surge on Thanksgiving gatherings. He said he does not want people to hold or attend Christmas or New Year’s Eve parties with people from outside their households. Lee has repeatedly said people are selfish if they gather during the holidays with people from outside their households.
He did not issue a statewide mask mandate. He said he wants that decision to be made locally.
Lee renewed hundreds of changes to state law such as looser medical licensing, permission for electronic government meetings, take-out alcohol sales from restaurants and many more that have been in effect during the pandemic. Those are covered in Executive Orders 71-73. Order 73, among many other things, extends county mayors’ permission to mandate masks. That authority was to end this Tuesday, but now runs through Feb. 27.
Regarding gatherings, Order 70 says, “To ensure appropriate social distancing for the purposes of social gatherings, persons in the State of Tennessee should to the greatest extent practicable maintain at least six (6) feet of separation from persons outside their household, and shall not in any event be in a group of ten (10) or more persons in an indoor public place for the purposes of social gatherings, activities, or events; provided, that this limitation does not necessarily prohibit ten (10) or more total persons from gathering in a single place or venue for an activity or event if they are in separate, otherwise permissible smaller groups that substantially maintain six (6) feet or more of separation from other persons or separate groups.”
Order 70 says it does not affect houses of worship, weddings or funerals, but does encourage preventative measures. Houses of worship are “strongly encouraged” to use online.
Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna continue to come in to the state for the first round of shots. By year’s end, the state will have vaccinated 200,000 people, Lee said. First priority is being given to healthcare workers and nursing home residents.
Here is the status of local government office operations in light of the governor’s executive order and/or out of precautions against COVID-19:
City of Murfreesboro: No changes have been reported.
Linebaugh Public Library: Is closed for deep cleaning and will reopen to the public on Jan. 2. All other branches are open. Linebaugh offers curbside service Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. They are closed Jan. 1 for the holiday.
Rutherford County clerk: County Clerk Lisa Duke Crowell said the Smyrna and Murfreesboro offices will process vehicle-related services only by phone, by mail, online or in drive-throughs until further notice. All other clerk services may still be handled inside. Tag renewals may be done over the phone with a credit or debit card. The website is rutherfordcountytn.gov/countyclerk. Some automobile transactions may be processed by mail with a notarized power of attorney form, which is available online.
PAWS: Pet Adoption & Welfare Services of Rutherford County will be open to the general public by appointment only, including adoptions and reclaims. Spay and neuter services are being postponed. Residents may continue to register for these services. Rabies and microchip services will be unavailable. Animal control officers will respond only to high-priority calls. Community service programs are postponed.
Other county offices
Ashley McDonald, the county’s public information officer, said the offices at the historic Courthouse remain open. Some staff – but not all – may work from home through Jan. 11 in recognition of Lee’s executive order.
“At this time, both the courthouse and election office remain open to the public,” she said. “Again, changes are being made to limit the amount of staff in the workplace at one time, but without interruption of services to the public.”
Town Hall will remain open (other than the closure for New Year's Day). In areas where it is possible to do so, employees will work from home. Smyrna Outdoor Adventure Center and Smyrna Event Center remain closed.
The town’s meetings that are judicial, require a vote and are essential to conducting business will be held. Those meetings include Beer Board, Board of Zoning Appeals, Planning Commission and Town Council. Citizens who are not involved in an agenda item are encouraged to watch local Channel 3, via Facebook or YouTube.
Meetings that are suspended: Arts Commission; Charity Assistance Committee; Historic Zoning Committee; Parks and Recreation Advisory Board; Project Assistance Committee; Sister City Committee; AND Storm Water Advisory Committee.
Citizens may choose to pay utilities online, by phone or by mail. More information is at townofsmyrna.org.
“We are not closing any offices or buildings at this time,” said Anne Smith, public information officer. “We are working with departments to determine if anyone is able to work remotely.”