Tennessee Governor, Chattanooga Mayor discuss businesses reopening

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said on Monday that some businesses could start opening as soon as next Monday with the majority of businesses opening by the end of next week.

“These businesses will open according to specific guidelines and guidance that we’ll provide in accordance with state and national experts in both business and medicine,” Governor Lee said.

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This applies to 89 counties and doesn’t apply to larger counties and cities like Hamilton County and Chattanooga.

Local officials are coming up with their own plans for businesses.

The Chattanooga Mayor recently joined other Mayors to launch the Tennessee Major Metros Economic Restart Task Force.

The task force is to help figure out when businesses can reopen and under what conditions.

“What are the things that people need to wear? How do we need to ensure that there is the right distancing between people? Whether it’s salons or restaurants, we want to, want to create the conditions that people stay safe,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said.

The task force held its first meeting on Monday.

It’s a step in coming up with a plan on how businesses can reopen.

“I think that it is extremely dangerous for us to set arbitrary dates that say this is when something’s going to happen without closely examining the facts that’s what I’m going to do so that we can, we can all be safe,” Mayor Berke said.

Businesses have not been immune to the impacts.

“Almost three-quarters of Chattanooga Chamber membership has lost revenue over the last month because of COVID-19. So, that’s a sampling of our membership obviously, but we anticipate that, that is probably a very similar impact across the community for small businesses,” Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Vice President Charles Wood said.

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce is encouraging people to shop online at local restaurants and retailers through a campaign, “Chattanooga To Go.”

They are asking businesses to take pictures of folks delivering goods using safety precautions and post them to social media using the hashtag #ChattanoogaToGo.

They have a list of businesses with their safe offerings online.

“Anything that we can do to make more that local dollars continue to stay in the Chattanooga market and in the Chattanooga economy is really critical,” Wood said.

The Chamber does not have a person on the task force, but Wood said they did recently meet with the Mayor’s Chief of Staff to talk about strategic planning for reopening.

“The challenge will be as we’ve seen lots of layoffs over the last few weeks, it will take people longer to bring people back on to a point. We know that there are going to be some things that are going to be kind of necessary to help push that process forward and work with local businesses to really help them gear back up and to do it in a very safe way,” Wood said.