Governor Lee Releases Guidelines for Reopening the State

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NASHVILLE (Press Release) – Today, Gov. Bill Lee issued the first steps from the “Tennessee Pledge,” the state’s roll out of guidance and best practices for Tennessee businesses in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to keep employees and customers safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first industries to receive guidance through the plan include the restaurant and retail industries.

“Tennesseans pulled together to flatten the curve, and it is time for people to begin to get back to work and back to their businesses,” Lee said. “We are pursuing a careful, measured approach to reopening our economy that does not depend on heavy-handed mandates but instead provides practical tools for businesses of all sizes.”

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Lee underscored the Tennessee Pledge plan for safe economic recovery is supported by data showing Tennessee’s curve of novel coronavirus infections hitting a plateau. Lee also pointed to the unsettling economic reality COVID-19 has created in our state.

Tennessee has seen the average daily growth rate remain stable for 14 days, in addition to a steady downward trajectory in positive tests as a percentage of total tests since April 1. The state has also had a massive ramp up in testing, including open testing available to all Tennesseans across 33 sites over last weekend, 18 this weekend, and more the next.

On the economic front, 15 percent of Tennessee’s workforce filed unemployment claims as of this week – more than 400,000 people. State officials predict a $5 billion loss in the state’s gross domestic product during 2020.

Lee said today’s announcement is the first step in a phased reopening of the state’s
economy, which entails rebooting industries as they are safe to pursue in 89 of the
state’s 95 counties. The state is working with Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton,
Knox, and Sullivan on plans to reopen businesses in those counties. Lee added that
many Tennesseans are facing not just potential sickness but crippling financial
hardship, particularly in the service industries.

Lee announced Tennessee restaurants are able to reopen Monday at 50 percent
occupancy. Additionally, Tennessee retailers are able to reopen on Wednesday at 50
percent occupancy. The state recommends that employees in both industries wear cloth
face coverings and that business owners follow federal guidelines for hygiene and
workplace sanitation standards related to the pandemic. The full guidance offered by
the state for both sectors can be found here.

Restaurant Guidelines:

Protecting Employees
• Wear face coverings and gloves
• Report any symptoms of illness to supervisor
• Follow daily sanitation protocols

Protecting Customers
• Limit occupancy to 50% of seating capacity
• Space tables 6 feet apart
• Limit seating to 6 per table
• Use social distancing standards in waiting areas
• Keep bar areas closed
• No live music
• Screen customers with basic questions about COVID 19
symptoms

Business Operations
• Sanitize all front of house contact surfaces every two hours
• Use disposable menus or sanitize menus between each use
• Use rolled silverware/napkins stored in sealed bins
• Sanitize chairs and all tabletop items after each table turn
• Do not offer self serve buffets, shared condiments, or beverage
station re use
• Provide ServSafe COVID 19 training for all food handlers

Retail Guidelines:

Protecting Employees
• Wear dedicated cloth face coverings, gloves, and other personal protection
items as recommended by the CDC
• Report any symptoms of illness to supervisor
• Provide training on personal protective equipment based on CDC guidelines
• Sanitize hands with soap and/or hand sanitizer
• Stagger shifts, breaks, and meals to maintain social distancing

Protecting Customers
• Limit customer occupancy to 50% of store capacity
• Customers should wear face coverings inside stores
• Consider shopping hours for the elderly, medically vulnerable, and health care workers
• Establish one way aisles and traffic patterns for social distancing
• Increase curbside, pickup, and delivery service options
• Prompt customers regarding the importance of social distancing

Business Operations
• Establish enhanced cleaning protocols that follow CDC guidelines
• Designate separate entrances and exits
• Use plastic shields or barriers at checkout between the customer and clerk
• Adjust store hours to allow time for enhanced cleaning
• Prohibit the use of reusable bags
• Suspend “self service” food stations and dining areas
• Suspend the sampling of food and personal hygiene products
• Management level employees should monitor compliance
• Add social distancing “reminder” signage and announcements

“Like the rest of the country, Tennessee has taken an unprecedented economic hit with
families and small businesses feeling the most pain,” Lee said. “We must stay vigilant
as a state, continue to practice social distancing, and engage in best practices at our
businesses so that we can stay open.”

Lee’s administration assembled the Tennessee Economic Recovery Group, pulling
together the state’s departments of tourism, economic development, and revenue,
members of the Tennessee General Assembly, and business leaders to safely reboot
Tennessee’s economy. The group is chaired by Tennessee Department of Tourist
Development Commissioner Mark Ezell.

Ezell said the state’s guidelines for restaurants and retail stores were developed in
cooperation with business leaders in both sectors, mayors from across the state, and
members of the legislature and health experts, as well as Unified Command which
includes the Tennessee Department of Health. He added the reopening of future
sectors would be accomplished with similar input from industry leaders and elected
officials.

“We need Tennessee businesses, workers, and consumers to step up and pledge to
follow these guidelines,” Ezell said. “It is critically important that we maintain our
commitment to social distancing and adhere to these new guidelines so that we can
continue to reopen our economy.”