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Some businesses to reopen this week, though safety guidelines won’t be enforced

Jonathan Roberts • Apr 26, 2020 at 11:00 AM

On Friday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced new guidelines for restaurants and retail businesses to reopen next week, but said the state will not be enforcing them, leaving the onus to enforce on consumers, business owners and industry groups.

“We think that consumers will enforce them, the business community itself will enforce them, the industry groups that have influence and impact and developed guidelines for industries — that’s how this is going to be enforced,” Lee said during a press conference on Friday.

Among the new guidelines for restaurants and retail shops are:

• Seating/occupant capacity should be limited to 50%;

• Social distancing should continue, with restaurants spacing tables six feet apart and limiting tables to six people;

• For restaurants, bar areas should be closed, live music shouldn’t be played and customers should be screened for COVID-19 with a series of questions before entering;

• Front-of-house surfaces should be sanitized every two hours, self-serve buffets and drink stations should be halted;

• Retail stores should have customers wear masks inside stores;

• Stores should dedicate shopping hours to high-risk populations, while curbside, pickup and delivery options are increased.

The move is part of the state’s plan for a phased reboot of its economy, which was put together by the state’s economic recovery group. The “Tennessee Pledge” provides guidelines for businesses to reopen in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties with state-run health departments. Under the plan, “close contact” shops like barbershops, salons and tattoo parlors won’t be allowed to open until mid-May with more guidance coming next week for those businesses.

“Much of our state’s current success in this fight, is because Tennesseans naturally choose to put each other first, they naturally choose to voluntarily adapt to safe practices — it’s that volunteer spirit that has fighting this pandemic and it’s that same volunteer spirit that will help rebuild our economy,” Lee said.

Lee has said the decision to reopen the economy is prudent, as the state’s percent daily increase in COVID-19 cases has slowed — though the state’s daily new case numbers have plateaued and not shown a decrease. Over the past three days, Tennessee has also seen more than 1,300 new cases reported, but Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said that rise was due to mass prison testing results, and not community spread.

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