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March 30, 2020
For immediate release

 City of Johnson City declares local emergency, issues Safer at Home Order

The City of Johnson City today issued a Declaration of Local Emergency and Proclamation of Civil Emergency, which includes a Safer at Home order that closes non-essential businesses, requires CDC social distancing guidelines, and restricts travel. The order will be effective at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 and will remain in effect until April 6, 2020 with the potential to extend as needed.

The action comes upon guidance from local health officials, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise with growing numbers attributed to community spread.

“This is the time to act," said Mayor Jenny Brock. "Community spread means the virus can be anywhere. None of us is immune. We must limit all social interaction by staying home except for essential needs." 

The order reaffirms Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order No. 17 which includes the prohibition of all public and private gatherings of more than 10 people occurring outside a single household or living unit.  Also included in the order are social distancing requirements for individuals, activities and businesses during the duration of the order. CDC issued guidelines for COVID-19 prevention measures includes screening of employees for symptoms; excluding sick people from work; maintaining at least six feet social distancing from other individuals; washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer; covering coughs or sneezes into the sleeve, tissue, or elbow (not hands); avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands; regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces; and not shaking hands with others.

“We know that these restrictions may place a burden on our residents and our small business owners in particular, and we don’t make this decision lightly,” Brock said. “It is clear this is what needs to happen to keep the people of this community safe. It is the most responsible thing we can do to limit the spread of this the virus.”

The Safer at Home Directive mandates all individuals currently living within the City are required to stay at their place of residence unless engaged in essential activities, essential governmental functions or to operate essential businesses.

Essential activities include:

a. To engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or the health and safety of their family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), such as, by way of example only and without limitation, obtaining medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies they need to work from home.

b. To obtain necessary services or supplies for themselves and their family or household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others.

c. To engage in outdoor activity, provided the individuals comply with the Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Order, such as, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, dog walking, or running.

d. To perform work providing essential products and services at an Essential Business or to otherwise carry out activities specifically permitted in this Order, including Minimum Basic Operations.

e. To perform payroll and other critical administrative functions for any business, including businesses not defined as essential.

f. To care for a family member or pet in another household.


The pandemic has quickly spread across the world in recent months, including in Washington County, which went from two to 14 confirmed cases in just 10 days. This Safer at Home directive mirrors similar initiatives under way in Carter, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington Counties as well as the cities of Bristol, Elizabethton, and Kingsport.

The declaration also requires "non-essential" businesses with a facility in the City to cease all activities at facilities located within the City except for minimum basic operations. Businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residence. All essential businesses are strongly encouraged to remain open. The order defines essential businesses as:

a. Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure as defined in this Order.

b. Grocery and beverage stores, certified farmers’ market, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, catering, and other similar establishments.  This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.

c. Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing.

d. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for the economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals.

e. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services.

f. Gas stations and auto supply, auto repair, and related facilities.

g. Banks and related financial institutions.

h. Hardware stores, home and business repair, construction (commercial and residential), and facilities design businesses.

i. Insurance businesses and services.

j. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning, janitorial, property management, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Business.

k. Businesses providing mailing, shipping and logistic services, including post office boxes.

l. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers.

m. Electronic, cell phone, and internet retail businesses.

n. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out.  Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Order on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take-away basis only.  Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site.

o. Manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing, storing, shipping, and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, medical supplies, shipping and paper supplies, chemicals and sanitization, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, mining, construction, national defense, communications, as well as products used by other Essential Businesses.

p. Businesses that supply other Essential Businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate or facilitate individuals to work from home, such as office supplies.

q. Businesses that provide goods or services exclusively through curbside pick-up, drive-thru, shipment, or delivery.  This shall include any business that did not previously provide goods or services in this manner, but develops a procedure to provide its goods and services in this manner or are temporarily permitted to do so through a regulation of the City.

r. Transportation services including buses, airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers (such as Uber and Lyft) providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order.

s. Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children, people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substances use disorders, and/or mental illnesses.

t. Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, children, people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness.

u. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities.

v. Childcare and daycare facilities, prioritizing services to employees of businesses exempted in this Order to work as permitted.  Daycare and childcare facilities must use Social Distancing and COVID-19 risk mitigation practices in their operations, and have no more than ten (10) people in a room.

w. Hotels and motels, to the extent used for lodging and delivery or carry-out food services.

x. Funeral homes, crematoriums, mortuaries, and burial services.

y. Private waste removal and recycling services.

z. Blood donor operations.

aa. All other critical infrastructure businesses not otherwise listed but identified in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Memorandum of Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 Response issued on March 19, 2020.

bb. Any other business or service that the City Manager determines is essential for the safety and public health of the City.

The list of essential businesses was informed by the Department of Homeland Security’s memorandum on identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during COVID-19 response. To view the memorandum, please visit

“The safety and health of our community and employees are the top priority and the Board of Commissioners appreciates everyone’s patience during this time," Brock said. “Please do your part by staying apart.”

For questions regarding business, please call the Northeast Tennessee Regional Partnership at 423.202.3510.

For more information, please visit