Governor announces first-phase reopening guidelines for 89 counties

News for churches, medical institutions to come next week

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Bill Lee (copy)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee shared the state's guidelines for the first phase of reopening the economy.

The Tennessee government released its first phase of guidelines for reopening the economy Friday morning, called the "Tennessee Pledge," allowing restaurants and retail businesses to reopen at 50% capacity next week.

"As businesses open and follow guidelines, customers will be safe to enter those businesses and will feel safe, and we expect that businesses will take and commit to and post this pledge to take care of their customers," said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

This document provides guidelines for the 89 counties in Tennessee with state health departments. The remaining six with their own health departments, including Davidson but not Williamson, will devise their own plans. Nashville Mayor John Cooper shared the complete phased plan for the metro area Thursday morning.

Guidelines for restaurants and retail

The Tennessee Pledge allows restaurants to open at half capacity on Monday, April 27, and retail businesses at half capacity on Wednesday, April 29.

According to the guidelines, all reopening businesses should screen all employees daily. Details on how this should be done are included in the document. Additionally, high-touch surfaces should be cleaned at least every two hours.

The "pledge" also states that employees should be allowed to work from home as much as possible.

Listed below are some of the guidelines for restaurants:

• All employees should wear face coverings and gloves at all times, and those handling food should receive ServSafe COVID-19 training.

• Tables should be spaced six feet apart and seat no more than six guests each.

• Bar areas should be closed.

• There should be no live music.

• Customers should be screened for illness.

• Make hand sanitizer available to customers.

• Use disposable menus or sanitize after each use.

• Close self-serve buffets and condiment and beverage stations open to the entire restaurant.

Listed below are some of the guidelines for retail businesses:

• All employees should wear face coverings and "other personal protection items as recommended by the CDC." The governor recommends gloves.

• Provide training to staff on personal protective equipment according to CDC guidelines.

• Stagger shifts, breaks and meals to maintain social distancing.

• Consider special shopping hours for medically vulnerable populations.

• Increase curbside pickup and delivery options.

• Use plastic shields or barriers between customers and cashiers.

• Do not allow shared samples of food or personal care products.

• Do not allow reusable bags.

According to Lee, the state does not have an enforcement plan for this "pledge" but relies on businesses and customers to comply with the recommendations. This is in contrast to the governor's stay-at-home order, set to expire on May 1, which was policed by local law enforcement as those departments deemed necessary.

"We're going to be putting this Tennessee Pledge out there not as a mandate but as a set of guidelines and as best practices," Lee said.

The state has not released additional phases

The governor shared that next week the state will give an update for churches, hospitals and other medical institutions. He said the state will not allow close-contact services, such as salons and tattoo parlors, to open for "at least a couple more weeks."

Criteria for backpedaling remains unknown

Lee said earlier this week that the federal reopening guidelines have "largely informed" the state's plans, citing Friday a decrease in flu and COVID-19 symptoms for the past three weeks and "a steady downward trajectory in the growth rate of COVID-19" for more than two weeks.

Wednesday, the state saw a 448-case spike of COVID-19 as reported by the Tennessee Department of Health, representing an over 6% increase from Tuesday following a roughly 2% increase from the previous day. Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said that this increase is largely due to the addition of test results from prison populations and does not represent a trend.

"I can't stress the importance of not focusing on just one metric and not focusing on just one day," Piercey said. "That's why we look at multiple metrics over the course of about a 14-day period to determine a trend because we do expect to see some blips in that."

Because of this, the state will move forward with its plan to reopen. Lee declined to give details on what would drive the state to pause or regress in its reopening plan.

Read the Tennessee Pledge below, or visit for more details.

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