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What businesses could reopen starting Monday? Health Dept. says that's being discussed right now

Gov. Bill Lee said he's ready for some businesses in the state to start opening their doors April 27, with guidance from a task force.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With a Monday start time looming, Knox County is talking right now with state and local leaders, health authorities and members of the Knox County business community to determine a phased reopening of businesses, Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said Thursday.

Buchanan provided no specifics about which kinds of businesses could get the go-ahead for the staggered reopening.

Gov. Bill Lee has said this week he hoped the launch could start as soon as Monday. The governor also has said he's not extending his stay-at-home order beyond April 30 and that many businesses could start reopening by Friday, May 1.

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A statewide economic recovery team is giving guidance to almost all counties, including Knox, about how to proceed. Some, like Davidson County, are coming up with their own plans.

Buchanan said the county would share details when they become available.

"Reopening is not a return to pre-pandemic conditions," she said.

Social distancing guidelines will remain in place and businesses will have to take steps to ensure workers and customers are protected. Specific guidance will be issued for businesses as they start to open their doors, the director said.

Buchanan also didn't provide specifics on when hospitals would be able to resume elective surgeries, which represents a sizable portion of medical treatment, in the Knoxville area.

As the threat of the pandemic spread in March, hospitals were told to stop elective surgeries so that facilities could be prepared for a possible surge in COVID-19 patients. That hasn't happened. Meanwhile, many medical staff such as nurses have told WBIR they've been directed to go home because there's little work for them.

Seven COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in Knox County, according to data released Thursday.

Local hospitals are working in tandem, she said, and more information about when elective surgeries could resume should be coming "soon."

The latest numbers show the county has had 206 positive cases, and there are 29 active cases.

The county also plans to conduct drive-thru and walk-up test screening by nasal swab for about 600 people 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. No appointment will be necessary.

People will be directed to specific test screening areas when they get to the Coliseum, Buchanan said. KAT will provide transportation for people who need to get there, she said.

The Tennessee Department of Health is providing supplies.

The county Health Department has conducted more than 700 test screenings this week. The turnaround to get results is three to five days, Buchanan said.

Private vendors and clinics continue to take tests as well.

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