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Remaining Tennessee counties issue reopening plans

Apr 28, 2020

City officials in Shelby County, Knox County, Hamilton County, Sullivan County, and Madison County have announced their respective plans to begin a phased reopening of non-essential businesses. Davidson County previously released its Roadmap to Reopening plan on April 24. Pursuant to Governor Lee’s Executive Order 29, the remaining 89 counties in Tennessee are required to follow statewide guidelines outlined in the Tennessee Pledge.

On Monday, April 27, local leaders from Shelby County, the City of Memphis, and the six surrounding suburban municipalities released the Back-To-Business Framework, a phased, data-driven plan to reopen non-essential businesses. In order to progress through each phase of the Back-To-Business Framework, each municipality must show a positive trajectory in the following metrics:

  • Number of new cases remains stable or decline for 14 days
  • Hospitalizations remain stable or decline for 14 days
  • Hospitals have the capacity to treat all patients
  • Testing and tracing capability must be efficient for containment of the virus

Each phase of the reopening guidelines details general recommendations that correspond with a sector-specific framework, which may be found here. While Shelby County and the City of Memphis’ shelter-in-place directives are set to expire on May 5, an official reopening date for Phase One of the framework has not been announced.

Phase One includes the following recommendations:

  • Operations remain status quo for entities currently deemed essential, provided they continue to meet the COVID-19 Compliant Protocol (CCP) conditions.
  • Entities currently deemed non-essential, which have limited personal contact between staff and/or visitors, may re-open facilities with restrictions and limited occupancy as outlined in the sector-specific framework. This includes restaurants and gyms/fitness facilities.
  • Purposeful groups of more than 10 are not permitted.
  • Indoor and outdoor facilities and public spaces may open for general recreation and non-contact sports subject to the restrictions of the CCP.
  • Non-essential manufacturers/distributors, as well as offices and call centers, may re-open with restrictions and limited occupancy as outlined in the sector-specific framework.
  • Elective medical procedures that are deemed medically necessary may resume

Phase Two includes the following recommendations:

  • Non-essential businesses with close personal contact, such as hair and nail salons, may re-open with restrictions and limited occupancy as outlined in the sector-specific framework.
  • Facilities for contact sports may re-open with restrictions and limited occupancy as outlined in the sector-specific framework.
  • Purposeful groups of 50 or more not permitted.

Phase Three includes the following recommendations:

  • Purposeful groups of 50 or more are not permitted, although gatherings of 50+ may be allowable if supported by the characteristics of the space and a clear social distancing plan.
  • Larger venues may be permitted to operate under limited capacity and physical distancing protocols

In addition, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon recently announced that the Knoxville area will begin a gradual, phased reopening of businesses on Friday, May 1. Knoxville’s Community Strategy for a Phased Reopening requests that individuals adhere to five core initiatives throughout the reopening process, including practicing social distancing, wearing cloth face covering, practicing proper hand washing, sanitizing surfaces, and staying home when exhibiting symptoms. Each phase of the reopening plan will extend for a minimum of 28 days.

Phase One includes more detailed information regarding reopening measures, while Phase Two and Phase Three serve as a broad framework that will be enhanced through a collaborative process within the community. Businesses that may reopen on May 1, subject to stringent protocols, include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Daycare centers
  • Restaurants
  • Salons
  • Spas
  • Retail stores
  • Gyms
  • Places of worship

For more information on industry specific reopening guidelines, please click here.

County officials in Hamilton County, Madison County, and Sullivan County announced their plans to mirror the statewide reopening guidelines outlined in Governor Lee’s Tennessee Pledge. In an opinion released on Monday, April 27, Tennessee Attorney General Hebert Slatery III confirmed that, "the Governor’s directives in response to an emergency supersede and preempt any action taken by political subdivisions of the State.” Requested by Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, General Slatery’s opinion affirms previous conflict raised in recent weeks relative to city mayors’ plans to issue separate, more restrictive reopening guidelines than those released by their county government.

As Governor Lee’s executive order delegates the authority to issue reopening guidance at the county level for the six Tennessee counties which operate their own health departments, city mayors must collaborate with county officials on a unified plan. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke acknowledged Hamilton County’s authority to reopen this week in accordance with the Tennessee Pledge, stating, “Yesterday I learned that, despite public and private assurances otherwise, the city of Chattanooga would not be making its own decisions for the reopening of restaurants.”

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