Governor Bill Lee said the state is beginning to 'crack the door' open for businesses across the state to reopen following nearly a month of closures due to COVID-19.
Restaurants in most areas across the state were able to begin reopening at half capacity Monday. Most retail stores will be allowed to do the same starting Wednesday.
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The governor said restrictions will continue to be slowly loosened as the economy is reopened in phases.
One industry that has been hit hard financially by COVID-19 restrictions are, ironically, hospitals. Even as doctors and nurses work on the frontline to treat and slow the spread of COVID-19, lucrative elective procedures were put on hold, putting a large strain on hospital finances.
The Tennessee Hospital Association estimates hospitals are losing $1 billion a month.
"These efforts have come ate great financial cost to hospitals," Lee said.
Lee announced Monday that 'appropriate' elective procedures will be able to resume starting Friday, May 1, including routine health screenings. Lee and health leaders said guidelines will be in place to ensure hospital space and PPE levels are properly managed to meet needs for the COVID-19 response.
The state said it has been working with hospital leaders to manage their reopening plans, saying it will take a phased approach on the community level and there will be clear policies in place for patients and staff to ensure people are being screened.
Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, said the state is also looking to expand antibody testing, saying they plan to test 10,000 healthcare workers to see how many may have developed COVID-19 antibodies. Piercey cautioned people that the antibody testing is still in its early phases and is generally only being used to inform the scope of infections, saying there are a lot of unanswered questions about it.
Lee said he will announce more plans for reopening later this week, including for gyms and houses of worship specifically.