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Knoxville mayor responds to Knox Co. mayor's plans for gradual reopening of businesses as coronavirus pandemic continues

Mayor Glenn Jacobs shared his plan in a memo to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County's mayor has outlined how he thinks we could get back to some sense of normalcy once the state's stay at home order has ended, in a memo to Gov. Bill Lee.

Mayor Glenn Jacob's plan calls for all businesses to reopen but with monitoring of employees' health and social distancing still in mind. The memo does not specify a date when businesses could reopen.

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon gave a statement on the matter on Tuesday, April 14.

“I look forward to the day when we can safely, reopen businesses across our city.  I am optimistic that social distancing is working and that we will be looking to implement a plan in the coming weeks. I am consulting local business leaders, medical professionals and the Knox County Health Department on constructing an outline that incorporates the best practices to keep the virus from rapidly spreading. Opening of businesses must happen in an orderly and cooperative manner.”

The Knox County Health Department also issued a statement Tuesday, saying it is meeting with the two mayors and other local leaders to best figure out how to go about safely reopening businesses. 

"We are encouraged by the innovation and ideas coming from the business community, as it will take all of us working together to ensure we don’t see a surge in cases once businesses begin to re-open. The draft proposal was created by Mayor Jacobs in direct response to a request from Governor Lee who asked city and county mayors from across the state for their thoughts regarding a phased re-opening. For local planning, Dr. Buchanan is convening a task force comprised of County and City leadership and the Knoxville Chamber to further advise Mayor Jacobs, Mayor Kincannon and other elected leadership. Additionally, it will take creativity, business acumen and infection control expertise to successfully re-open businesses in Knox County."

All businesses

He says all businesses should make sure sick employees stay home, have as many employees work from home as possible, and check temperatures of those that do come into work. He also says employers should discourage shared workplaces and consider the use of face masks.

Restaurants and Bars

For restaurants and bars, he outlines a gradual return to dining room seating by starting out with half of the seating capacity as determined by the health department or 100 patrons, whichever is lower. Tables should be spaced out to allow for six feet of separation between diners. He says the capacity could grow after the first two weeks and eventually go to full capacity in a month.

For bars within restaurants, he recommends opening at 10 percent capacity with no standing allowed, with a gradual increase over the next month to eventually get at full capacity.

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Retail stores

Retail stores could reopen by following the models used by big box stores like Walmart and Costco, by limiting the numbers of customers inside at a time and using safe distancing markers where customers may wait in line. 

They should limit the use of cash transactions and disinfect credit card machines between each use and disinfect high traffic areas often.

Parks and Playgrounds

He outlines a plan to reopen parks and golf courses with frequent cleaning and no shared equipment. His plan says playgrounds will remain closed.

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Salons and spas

He believes personal appearance businesses should return to full service gradually by accepting clients by appointment only and limiting them to maintain social distancing. All stations should be disinfected between each use.

All communal items and products should be discontinued and customers should be asked to use hand sanitizer and wear a face mask when they enter. Providers are also urged to use gloves and face masks.

Communal venues

Places like concert halls and sports arenas should have a reduced audience to allow for social distancing. He believes customers should wear masks and have a temperature check before entering.

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Health clubs

Gyms could reopen by limiting access to staffed hours and limiting occupancy to five people per 1,000 square feet for four weeks. Owners should adjust the layout to allow for six feet of separation between customers or restrict access to equipment where that isn't possible and limit workouts to 45 minutes.

Hand sanitizing stations should be available for customers to disinfect any equipment they use.

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Read the entire memo

Phased Reopening

All Businesses Should

- Continue promoting frequent and thorough handwashing and provide workers, customers and visitors a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be provided.

- Require workers to stay home if they are sick. Ask employees to do health checks by taking and recording their temperature before coming to work or entering the workplace.

- Require any employee who has had contact with a someone who tests or has tested positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine according to Health Department guidance.

- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering up coughs and sneezes and properly disposing of tissues.

- For as long as possible, allow flexible worksites and hours (including staggered shifts) to increase physical distancing among and between employees.

- Discourage workers from using other employee’s phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment, when possible. When not possible, hand sanitizer should be used both prior to use of communal items and immediately after and care should be taken not to touch face.

- Increase regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, equipment and other elements of the work environment.

- Consider the use of masks or cloth face coverings if physical distancing isn’t a functional possibility.

- Practice a phased or gradual reopening as possible.

Restaurants and Bars

Return to in-restaurant dining gradually.

- Restaurants whose primary business is food service may open to half the seating capacity of their dining area as permitted by the Knox County Health Department, or 100 patrons, whichever is lower. Tables should be spaced, and seating arrangements coordinated, following the public health guidelines of the CDC—which is maintaining a distance of at least six feet between persons. Follow this model for the first two weeks. Open to 75% of seating capacity or 150 patrons, whichever is lower, for two additional weeks. Consider opening to full capacity after four weeks of phased reopening.

- Restaurants with an attached bar may follow the above guidelines for the restaurant portion of their facility. The bar area may open to 10% of the capacity specified by a Knox County Health Department permit with no standing allowed. Follow this model for the first two weeks. Open to 50% of bar capacity, or 100 patrons, for two additional

weeks. Consider opening to 75% of capacity for two additional weeks before resuming 100 percent capacity for bar service.

- All communal use items and products should be limited including writing utensils.

- Require employees to take their temperature or perform a quick health check before reporting to work.

Retail Stores

Should adopt the models being used at big box retailers like Costco, Home Depot, Walmart and Lowe’s which actively promote physical distancing in the facility by limiting the number of customers allowed in at any given time. Distancing markers should be placed throughout the store, and outside where customers may be waiting in line, to remind customers to maintain a safe distance from other patrons.

- Consider returning with reduced hours to ensure ample time for proper cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.

- Procedures should be implemented to disinfect high-traffic and high-touch areas often; after every customer if possible.

- Credit card docks should be sanitized after each transaction and passing of cash should be limited or restricted.

- All communal use items and products should be limited including store bags and writing utensils.

- Require employees to take their temperature or perform a quick health check before reporting to work.

Parks and Playground Facilities

Open subject to appropriate guidelines. Physical distancing guidelines should be maintained as much as possible.

- Play equipment and bathroom facilities will be cleaned, sanitized and disinfected often.

- All rakes and flags should be removed from golf courses and patrons should be encouraged not to share equipment. Golf carts should remain “no share” and should be washed and sanitized after each use.

- Playground will remain closed.

Personal Appearance Businesses

Return to full service gradually.

- Open for appointments only with limited capacity to ensure social distancing can be maintained.

- Adjust service area layout as necessary, alternating chairs or stations when possible, and encourage customers to maintain proper physical distance other while waiting for services.

- All communal use items and products should be discontinued including writing utensils, magazines, beverages and snack stations.

- Ask customers to use hand sanitizer immediately upon entering facility and again any time a communal surface or item is touched or handled. Ask that customers also wear a mask when in the facility.

- All service providers should wash their hands in accordance with CDC hand-washing guidelines in between services and as often as possible when moving around the facility from station to station. Service providers should always also use gloves when appropriate and wear a face covering.

- Conduct regular and thorough cleaning of all equipment, surfaces and areas of the salon using disinfectant cleaning supplies.

- Require employees to take their temperature or perform a quick health check before reporting to work.

Communal Venues

- Reduce audience size and enable physical distancing by limiting seating options.

- Consider asking customers to wear masks and allow temperature checks before entry

Health Clubs

Restrict facility access to staffed hours only and limit club occupancy to five members per 1,000 square feet. Follow this model for four weeks before considering return to full operation and service capacity.

- Adjust equipment layout and close or restrict access to equipment as necessary.

- Conduct regular and thorough cleaning of all equipment, surfaces and areas of the facility using disinfectant cleaning supplies.

- Require that members wash or sanitize their hands upon entering the facility.

- Require patrons to clean equipment with disinfecting wipes before and after use. Provide hand sanitizing stations for use upon patron entry and exit.

- Limit workouts to 45 minutes.

No sick patrons and employees should be allowed to enter the facility. Require any employee who has had contact with someone who tests or tested positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine according to Health Department guidance (with pay, if possible).

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