OPINION: What does that mean for me?: Tennessee does not renew stay-at-home order

Julianna Lowe

On Monday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee announced he would not be extending Tennessee’s stay-at-home order past April 30. As a Tennessean, this news is terrifying. 

“While I am not extending the safer at home order past the end of April, we are working directly with our major metropolitan areas to ensure they are in a position to reopen as soon and safely as possible,” Lee said.

Lee’s stay-at-home order was originally released on April 2, which isn’t even one month. Twenty-eight days for social distancing, and then everyone is expected to go back to normal. 

I don’t think we’ll ever go back to normal.

Because of Tennessee’s stay-at-home order, I’ve been staying with my boyfriend and his family for the last month. This experience alone has given me enough to worry about with the reopening of Tennessee’s economy. 

I’ve seen my boyfriend’s mom attempt to work her essential job from home so that she can take care of the five toddlers that she shares with her girlfriend.

I’ve watched her workdays go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. because she has to fit in childcare while her girlfriend works her essential on-site restaurant job. It’s been difficult, but they’ve found a way to manage. 

When the economy reopens, my boyfriend’s mom will have to go back to work in her office five days a week, and her girlfriend will have to go from working three days a week to six days a week. They’re scared about childcare, and I am too. 

Neither one of them wants to return to work full time. They’re already afraid of going to the grocery store during the week to feed their children. The last thing they want to do is go out, get sick and bring the virus home to their five young children. 

Because that’s the thing about reopening the economy. The virus is still out there, and we can all still catch it, we can all still carry it and infect other people and we can all still die from it. 

My boyfriend’s mom is anxious over going back to work in an office where one of her coworkers and his fiance were diagnosed with COVID-19 last week. She’s also worried about what to do with her children.

Even if childcare opens back up, she and her girlfriend refuse to send their susceptible children to daycares and after-school programs where they might catch the virus and bring it home. The children’s grandparents can’t take care of the children either — their grandmother has Crohn’s disease, which would put her at high risk for complications.

My boyfriend’s mom is 43, her girlfriend is 35, my boyfriend is 20 and I’m 19. We’re all extremely vulnerable to the virus, and reopening the Tennessean economy scares us. 

Even on a larger scale, I wonder what this means in the grand scheme of things. Lee said that Tennessee is seeing a decline in the daily increase of coronavirus cases. 

“We’re seeing an encouraging slow to the movement of COVID-19 in our state, and that’s because Tennesseeans are working diligently & making sacrifices to socially distance and limit non-essential activities,” Lee tweeted

I can’t help but think that the decline in cases is due to the stay-at-home order. The more social distancing that Tennesseans do, the less cases that we are bound to have. 

So, reopening the state will cause a resurgence in cases, right?

Small businesses are desperate to open up — I get that. People are desperate to get back to work and make an income — I get that. The global economy needs to be stimulated — I get that.

But if people continue to die, businesses, incomes and the economy won’t matter because there won’t be people to care about it. 

Hopefully social distancing and quarantining won’t end for me on May 1. That might not be my choice, and that’s another scary thing. 

I work as a hostess at a restaurant, and I’m terrified that my employer will call me into work. If I go to work, I’ll get sick. If I get sick, I’ll get eight other people sick. 

That’s how it’ll work for everyone.

The virus is still being passed around, people are still getting infected and people are still dying. That chain of events is not going to stop.

I appreciate Lee encouraging Tennesseans to continue to social distance while the economy reopens. I have my doubts about social distancing in practice, however.

Over the past month, I’ve watched my boyfriend’s little sister play with her friends outside, touching and sharing toys, then coming into the house without washing her hands. She can’t be the only one that goes on like this.

I wonder if I’m being pessimistic or realistic.

I want the economy to reopen as well. I don’t want to continue to collect unemployment from my state. I want to go back to school, to see my friends and to see my family.

I worry about my family as well. My dad already has to continue to go to work because banking is an essential business, but what happens when there is more in-person traffic in the bank? He is more exposed to people that could potentially have the virus. 

He could carry the virus home to my little brother who has asthma or my mom who is recovering from surgery. 

I worry about my grandfather, who is in an assisted living home with a fatal lung disease and double pneumonia. If the assisted living home is reopened to visitors, he has a higher chance of contracting coronavirus — and it’ll kill him. 

At the same time, I can’t help but think about all the children and teachers that are trying to function without school right now. My brother graduates high school this fall, my sister will be a junior and my mother is a teacher. 

The sooner the economy opens, the sooner they can get back to school and my mother can get back to work — which I know she is yearning for. I don’t want my sister to miss prom. 

I need a job. I have bills and rent and tuition to pay. I have people that I want to see and places that I want to go. My car needs an oil change. 

All of those things can wait and have been waiting because I want my loved ones and me to be safe. Reopening the economy seems to mean another outbreak, another spike in deaths, another stay-at-home order and another drop in the economy. 

It’s just too scary and just too risky. 

Features reporter Julianna Lowe can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Julianna on social media at @juliannalowe.