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Tennessee Issues Executive Order Nos. 17 and 21 to Promote Social Distancing and Aid Businesses

March 25, 2020

On March 22, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order No. 17 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as well as to provide businesses some flexibility to help weather the economic impacts of social distancing measures.  That Order was amended through Executive Order No. 21, signed March 30, 2020.

Citing to CDC guidance and President Trump’s March 16, 2020 “Coronavirus Guidelines for America,” Executive Order No. 17 prohibits the following on a statewide basis:

  1. Social gatherings of ten (10) or more people.
  2. Onsite consumption of food or drink at restaurants, bars, or similar                 establishments.
  3. Visits to gyms, fitness/exercise centers or “substantially similar facilities.”
  4. Visits to nursing homes, retirement homes, or long-term care or assisted-living facilities, except to provide essential assistance or to visit residents receiving imminent end-of-life care, provided such visits may be accomplished without unreasonable risk to other residents.

Expanding upon those prohibitions, Executive Order No. 21 mandates that the following types of businesses shall not be open to the public:  barber shops; hair salons; waxing salons; threading salons; nail salons or spas; spas providing body treatments; body-art facilities or tattoo services; tanning salons; or massage therapy establishments or massage services.  Additionally, the following entertainment and recreational gathering venues are also closed to the public:  night clubs; bowling alleys; arcades; concert venues; theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers, or similar facilities; racetracks; indoor children’s play areas; adult entertainment venues; amusement parks; or roller or ice skating rinks.  Those prohibitions are enforceable until 11:59 p.m. on April 14, 2020.  The full text of Executive Order No. 21 may be found here.

To ease the economic impact of the prohibitions listed above, Executive Order No. 17 grants Tennessee businesses the following limited relief:

  1. Restaurants, bars, and similar establishments—including nightclubs—may offer drive-through, pickup, carry-out, or delivery services for food or drink, including alcoholic beverages.
  2. Gyms or fitness/exercise centers or “substantially similar facilities” are highly encouraged to utilize any available electronic or virtual fitness options.

Executive Order No. also encourages persons and businesses in Tennessee to “take particular care to protect the well-being of those populations especially vulnerable to COVID-19.”  In addition to adhering to the precautions advised by the President and the CDC, businesses are encouraged to offer delivery services or “special opportunities for members of vulnerable populations to shop in retail establishments exclusive of the general population.”  (i.e., grocery stores are encouraged to open exclusively to senior citizens for the first hour of each day’s operation)

Notably, the Order does not mandate sheltering in place.  It also does not affect businesses “necessary to maintain health and economic well-being,” expressly identified as grocery stores, gas stations, parks, and banks.  All critical infrastructure also remains operational, and government entities and businesses are directed to continue providing important and essential services.

Although sheltering in place is not presently required, the Order encourages employees of businesses that remain open to work from home where feasible, and to otherwise observe the precautions advised by the President and the CDC.

Executive Order No. 17 became effective and enforceable at 12:01 a.m. on March 23, 2020, and shall remain in effect until 12:01 a.m. on April 6, 2020.  A link to the full text of the Order can be found here.

Overviews of other COVID-19 related governmental orders issued in Tennessee may be found here:

If you have any questions or need support in understanding and implementing the state or local guidance regarding COVID-19, please feel free to contact:

Alan Bean at (615) 905-7199 or

Click Here to view more COVID-19 Resources

This information is not intended to provide legal advice, and no legal or business decision should be based on its content. No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.  Read full disclaimer.


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