NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Many restaurants across Tennessee will be allowed to reopen as early as Monday at half occupancy, while retail stores can open Wednesday, under a plan unveiled by Governor Bill Lee.
During a news conference Friday morning, the governor revealed the first steps of the “Tennessee Pledge,” the state’s roll-out of guidance and best practices for businesses in 89 of the 95 counties to re-open, while keeping employees and customers safe.
Lee said Tennessee restaurants are able to reopen Monday at 50-percent capacity, while retail stores can open Wednesday at 50-percent capacity. He has recommended that employees in both industries wear cloth face coverings and that business owners follow federal guidelines for hygiene and workplace sanitation standards related to the pandemic.
The governor said the “Tennessee Pledge” plan is supported by data showing the state’s curve of novel coronavirus infections hitting “a plateau.”
The state has seen the average daily growth rate remain stable for 14 days, in addition to a steady downward trajectory in positive tests as a percentage of total tests since April 1, according to Governor Lee. Testing has also increased, including open testing across 33 sites over last weekend, 18 this weekend and more in the future.
Lee said 15-percent of Tennessee’s workforce filed unemployment claims as of this week, which equates to more than 400,000 people. State officials predict a $5-billion loss in the state’s gross domestic product during 2020.
“Tennesseans pulled together to flatten the curve, and it is time for people to begin to get back to work and back to their businesses,” Lee said during his news conference. “We are pursuing a careful, measured approach to reopening our economy that does not depend on heavy-handed mandates but instead provides practical tools for businesses of all sizes.”
The governor called Friday’s announcement the first step in reopening the state’s economy. The plan applies to 89 of the state’s 95 counties, excluding Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan counties, which will have their own strategies. Nashville Mayor John Cooper unveiled his four-phase plan for reopening the city on Thursday morning.
“Like the rest of the country, Tennessee has taken an unprecedented economic hit with families and small businesses feeling the most pain,” Lee said. “We must stay vigilant as a state, continue to practice social distancing, and engage in best practices at our businesses so that we can stay open.”
Lee’s administration assembled the Tennessee Economic Recovery Group, pulling together the state’s departments of tourism, economic development, and revenue, members of the Tennessee General Assembly, and business leaders to safely reboot Tennessee’s economy. The group is chaired by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell.
Ezell said the state’s guidelines for restaurants and retail stores were developed in cooperation with business leaders in both sectors, mayors from across the state, and members of the legislature and health experts, as well as Unified Command which includes the Tennessee Department of Health. He added the reopening of future sectors would be accomplished with similar input from industry leaders and elected officials.
“We need Tennessee businesses, workers, and consumers to step up and pledge to follow these guidelines,” Ezell said. “It is critically important that we maintain our commitment to social distancing and adhere to these new guidelines so that we can continue to reopen our economy.”