Panels to deliver guidance on restarting economy

Robert Houk • Apr 21, 2020 at 12:00 AM

Task forces are being formed at the federal, state and local levels to provide government leaders with advice on when and how to re-start an economy shuttered by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said Monday he will soon convene a panel made up of local business owners, public health officials and community leaders to advise him on when to loosen safer-at-home directives and re-open businesses. The mayor said the “when” and the “how” will be the first order of business of the task force.

Talk of jumpstarting the economy comes as the state and nation ramps up testing for COVID-19. Last week, public health officials told Grandy and county commissioners it is too soon to relax social distancing measures.

“This shouldn’t be a solo effort, but a regional effort,” Grandy said. “We need to be consistent in what we do.”

President Donald Trump said last week he was creating a congressional task force to give him counsel on jumpstarting the nation’s economy in the wake of the pandemic. Trump appointed Tennessee’s two Republicans in the U.S. Senate — Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn — to serve on that panel.

“The way to contain this disease and get back to work and back to school is to put politics aside and work together as fast as we can on new tests, new treatments and new vaccines,” Alexander, who is chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a news release. “Everyone I know wants this to happen as quickly as we responsibly can, and I welcome the opportunity to help in this way.”

Blackburn said she shares the president’s efforts “to identify the most effective ways to keep the American people safe, from supplying health care workers with needed equipment to aiding small business owners through a volatile economic period.” She said the pandemic “is affecting Americans of all backgrounds, in every sector, and figuring out how we re-open our country requires a targeted approach.

In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee has formed the Economic Recovery Group, a collaboration between state departments, sate lawmakers and leaders from the private sector to provide guidance to “safely reboot” the state’s economy.

“COVID-19 has not only created a public health crisis, it has hurt thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of hardworking Tennesseans,” Lee said last week. “As we work to safely open Tennessee’s economy, this group will provide guidance to industries across the state on the best ways to get Tennesseans back to work.”

The 30-member group is led by state Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell. Other members. include Bradley Jackson, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce; Rob Ikard, Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association: and Colin Barrett, Tennessee Bankers Association.


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