NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — Even with the announcement to start re-opening the state's economy on May 1, Governor Bill Lee has been facing some sharp criticism for not starting the process immediately.
Dozens of Tennesseans rallied at the state capitol Monday, calling on Lee to re-open Tennessee now.
Tensions are definitely rising in the Midstate as we keep navigating through this pandemic. Some people say we need to keep businesses shut down to keep preventing the spread of COVID-19. Others, like the ones who joined today at Legislative Plaza, say the longer those businesses stay closed, the more harm it does.
The signs say it all: these Tennesseans want Governor Lee to open up the state immediately. They claim the curve has already been flattened, and it's time to get the economy back to normal.
Greg and Zada Sorrell, who live in Manchester with their two children, have both been out of work for several weeks because of COVID-19 restrictions. Zada works at a bakery, and Greg is a bartender.
"I'm brave enough to go to work, and I'm brave enough to be near my fellow humans, and I hate that we have to see each other as a disease now," Zada said.
"I appreciate people who want to quarantine, and who can afford to do it, and who can make that sacrifice and do that, that's great, I appreciate it," Greg said. "I think you're free to do. I should be free to not do it."
Adrienne Hitch owns a hair salon in Hendersonville. She says the state hasn't helped her with unemployment, and she didn't get a Small Business Administration loan because the funding ran out.
"We have no problem being shut down, but we can't afford to stay shut down if we don't have some kind of an income coming in," Hitch said.
State Representative Bruce Griffey (R) recently sent a letter to Governor Lee, urging him to open the economy immediately. He says we'll face dire consequences if that doesn't happen.
He also says it's not fair that big box stores like Lowe's and the Home Depot get to stay open while so many small businesses had to close.
"I just don't think it's fair for the government to pick winners and losers on this, unless you've got a real good firm basis of why a specific business should not operate," Griffey said.
Many of the people at today's rally weren't wearing face masks or socially distancing from others. Even with Governor Lee announcing the re-opening of the economy in May, he says social distancing will still be key to keeping COVID-19 numbers down.