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Knox Co. easing more restrictions on May 26, including bars, pools & libraries

Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan hinted Tuesday at the department's briefing that an earlier shift to looser guidelines could be coming.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — More business and community restrictions in Knox County will be lifted, starting on Tuesday, May 26.

Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said Wednesday that the county would move to phase two of the county's reopening plan three days ahead of schedule.

Input from hundreds of businesses and residents helped in determining the county was ready to ease restrictions, Buchanan said. An advisory task force also is ready to move on, she said.

Health data also is promising for the area, she said.

In phase two, she said it is critical that the public continue to practice safe social distancing, wear a facemask, frequent handwashing, cleaning and disinfecting often, and staying home if you are sick.

Social settings should be limited to 50 people or less during phase two.

Also in phase two, high-risk people are still asked to stay at home to reduce their risk of infection.

More details will be announced later this week, but Buchanan said the following will be able to open on May 26, under certain guidelines for public safety.

  • Most industries
  • Foodservice expands to include bars and food truck parks
  • Pools and splash pads
  • Indoor leisure activities
  • Summer camps
  • Community centers and libraries
  • Outdoor event venues with 50-person limit

Playgrounds and senior centers will remain closed during phase two.

The county will reevaluate on Friday, June 12, to see if any changes need to be made.

Dr. Buchanan said to remember that the pandemic is not over.

"The virus is not gone. The risk is still very real," she said.

Mayor Glenn Jacobs and Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon thanked Buchanan for the update.

“I want to applaud Dr. Buchanan, her team and the citizen volunteers of the Knoxville-Knox County Reopening Task Force for their dedicated service and guidance," Jacobs said in a statement released Wednesday morning. "I feel the plan they’ve developed balances the needs for both healthy people and a healthy economy. I’m looking forward to their release of some of the guidance for Phase 2 this afternoon as it will enable our community to move forward and get more people back to work. It’s important that we continue pushing ahead as a unified community as Phase 2 gets fully underway.”

Said Kincannon in a statement: “I am grateful to Dr. Martha Buchanan, the entire team at the Knox County Health Department and task force members for putting the well-being of our community ahead of politics. These smart, science-based decisions are crucial as we move through this pandemic.

"I also want to thank the people and businesses of Knoxville. We are able to move from Phase One to Phase Two because of everyone’s effort to follow the five core actions that limit transmission of this virus: washing hands, physical distancing, wearing cloth face coverings, sanitizing surfaces and staying home if sick.”

Gov. Bill Lee signaled last week he was ready to allow most counties in the state - not counting metro counties such as Knox - to more fully open. Starting Friday, restaurants can open at full capacity in 89 counties.

RELATED: Health Department chief: We're looking at virus data, report to come soon on easing business limitations

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Dr. Buchanan hinted Tuesday at the department's daily briefing that an earlier shift to looser guidelines could be coming.

That would be ahead of original plans that called for Phase 1 restrictions, such as restaurants limited to 50 percent capacity, to continue through May 28 Original plans called for Phase 2 to start, after a review, on May 29.


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