Knox County, Tennessee Republican Mayor Glenn Jacobs condemned the state’s Republican Gov. Bill Lee for issuing a statewide “stay-at-home” order in an effort to slow the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, arguing the directive will only exacerbate existing crises.
“I applaud the governor for following through with his convictions and fulfilling his duty to protect the people of Tennessee according to his best judgement,” Jacobs said last Thursday. “However, I cannot applaud any government monitoring the movements of its people and mandating virtually everything we are allowed to do.”
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs responds to Governor Lee’s Executive Order 23 with the following statement: pic.twitter.com/t3tFf1rRwS
— Knox Co. Government (@KnoxGov) April 2, 2020
Jacobs said the state was already facing two crises at hand over the pandemic, including an economic fallout beginning to take its toll on the nation and a mental health crisis growing worse with economic devastation and extreme isolation.
“I understand that COVID-19 is a very serious issue and this is a crisis,” Jacobs said. “But we also face an economic crisis, with millions of people out of work and no way to earn a living, many of them due to government mandated shutdowns. We also have a looming mental health crisis as individuals struggle with depression and feelings of hopelessness and isolation exacerbated by job loss, many of them have already taken their own lives.”
Knox County has already seen the consequences of the pandemic play out among those who never even came in contact with the virus. Lee issued the executive order requiring Tennesseans to remain at home on March 30, a week after Knox County saw its suicide rate skyrocket claiming more lives than the virus itself.
The series of suicides prompted Jacobs to openly question whether policymakers were taking the right approach to combat the virus by shutting the nation down and as a result, paralyzing the economy creating a wide array of public health consequences of its own.
“We have to determine how we can respond to COVID-19 in a way that keeps our economy intact, keeps people employed and empowers them with a feeling of hope and optimism – not desperation and despair,” Jacobs said following the suicides in his own community.
Meanwhile, new data from the U.S. Department of Labor released Thursday morning show more than 6.6 million Americans filed new jobless claims last week bringing the three week total to 16.8 million new filings amid the pandemic.
The economic destruction brought by government leaders are worrying many that current strategy to mitigate the impacts of the virus will make the cure worse than the disease.
Allysen Efferson, a therapist in East Tennessee told The Federalist that the link between financial hardship and suicide has been well-established, and urged policymakers to consider the potential side effects of government mandated shut downs on existing public health crisis already plaguing communities.
“At the end of it all, what would be a real devastation to me is that we didn’t even consider that this would have an impact on individuals who may take their lives,” Efferson told The Federalist.
The combination of extreme isolation with financial hardship and constant doomsday predictions in the media with no end in sight have made conditions ripe for a severe spike in suicides.
“Continual barrage of just really bleak predictions doesn’t help,” Efferson said. “It’s not just ‘sit in place.’ It’s ‘sit in place and we don’t know what’s going to happen next.'”
Jacobs also raised civil liberty issues with the governor’s stay in place order.
“Further, we have a political crisis as our state and nation must determine a way to walk back from the damage currently being done to our system of free government,” Jacobs said.
The east Tennessee mayor argued that the government had no role in mandating a free citizenry to shelter in place.
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem made the same case in resisting calls to join governors across the nation implementing similar orders. Noem argued that it was a public responsibility to act in accordance with the guidelines issued by public health authorities rather than impose the recommendations into through executive action.
“The people themselves are primarily responsible for their safety,” Noem said. “They are free to exercise their rights to work, to worship and to play or to even stay home or to conduct social distancing.”