Governor issues guidance for May 1 reopening of Tennessee gyms

David Floyd • Apr 29, 2020 at 8:29 AM

As it begins to reopen the economy after the fallout caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Tennessee will allow gyms in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to reopen on Friday at reduced capacity.

“We feel that it is important for the mental and physical health of Tennesseans to have access to fitness environments,” Gov. Bill Lee said during a press conference Tuesday.

The state is asking gyms to reduce capacity to 50% and close communal spaces like athletic courts, locker rooms and swimming pools and self-service areas like juice bars and coffee stations.

Fitness classes must also reduce their size by 50% and should use proper social distancing practices and remove shared equipment.

Among other guidance, the state also suggests that gyms screen customers for illness before they enter their facilities, consider limiting workout lengths and instruct employees to wear face coverings when they’re at work. Additionally, the state suggests that youth and adult team leagues or sports remain on hold.

The six counties in the state with locally run health departments, which includes Sullivan County, are excluded from this guidance.

Gyms are the latest business sector given a time frame for reopening as the state stages a phased reboot of its economy under a set of guidelines called the “Tennessee Pledge.”

Lee has previously announced guidance for restaurants and retailers, which have been allowed to open Monday and Wednesday respectively. The state has not said that it will be enforcing these guidelines.

An executive order signed Tuesday continues to prohibit social gatherings in the state of 10 or more people, urges the residents to wear face masks in public and restricts visitor access to nursing homes.

The order also says close-contact services (such as barbershops, hair salons, tattoo services and tanning salons) and entertainment venues (such as bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues and racetracks) will remain closed for the time being.

The order goes into effect on Wednesday and expires May 29.

Latest case numbers

New numbers from the Tennessee Department of Health Tuesday show there have now been 10,052 cases of COVID-19 in the state since reporting began in March, an increase of 134 since Monday. The state reports that 4,921 people have recovered, an increase of 201.

There have now been 188 deaths statewide as result of the virus and 881 people have been hospitalized. Statewide, 161,926 tests have been administered.

Locally, the state reports that Washington County has seen 54 cases with 46 people having recovered, Sullivan County has seen 47 cases with 42 recoveries and one death, Carter County has seen 12 cases with 6 recoveries and one death, Unicoi County has seen one case and one recovery, Johnson County has seen three cases with two recoveries, and Greene County has seen 42 cases with 27 recoveries and two deaths.

Not normal

As the state moves forward with its phased reboot of the economy, regional governments reminded residents Tuesday these steps don’t mean everything is returning to normal.

“Our new normal will look different, with health precautions remaining a necessary part of everyday life,” the leaders of Elizabethon, Johnson City and Kingsport and Carter, Sullivan and Washington counties said in a joint statement issued Tuesday. “It is more important than ever to continue safe practices to avoid a spike in COVID-19 cases.”

Regional leaders say those practices have helped keep the number of positive cases low. Among other recommendations, leaders say residents should maintain social distancing practices, limit gatherings to a maximum of 10 people, wear a cloth mask when in public, stay home if feeling sick or if immuno-compromised and avoid non-essential travel, including trips outside the Tri-Cities area.

“Area government leaders and health officials recognize the importance of reopening our area but doing so safely is crucial to its success,” the statement says. “The path forward is a cautious one, as the safety and health of our communities remains the top priority.”

Johnson City Press Videos