As Tennessee’s businesses begin to re-open, the question many people have is whether or not re-opening will cause the state’s cases of COVID-19 to increase dramatically.
Gov. Bill Lee said during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon he isn’t sure how transmission will be affected but he has faith business owners will use safe practices.
“We don’t know what impact opening will have on these numbers,” he said. “We believe and we feel confident that opening safely will help mitigate the spread of this virus and we we can, in fact, open safely and manage the spread of COVID at the same time.”
Business owners in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have been issued guidelines for re-opening through an initiative Lee has called the Tennessee Pledge. Patron capacity has been limited to 50 percent of a business’s occupancy in most cases and sanitization and social distancing measures were also included in the self-regulated recommendations.
Lee said residents are eager to return to work and will do what they can to do so safely.
“Any Tennessean that is not working right now because of COVID-19 is hoping to go back to work as soon as possible and any business owner that has had their business closed as a result of COVID-19 is very hopeful that they will be allowed to go back and open their business again,” Lee said. “It never surprises me that people want to go back to work or that they want to re-open their businesses and it doesn’t surprise me either that they want that to be done in a safe way … they know that if their businesses are open safely they’re more likely to have customers.”
Covington Fire Chief Richard Griggs said in a public safety committee meeting Tuesday only three restaurants in the city had re-opened their dining rooms. The owners called to ask questions about occupancy.
Lee has been criticized for re-opening businesses too soon and has said closures could still happen. Many retail establishment re-opened their doors Wednesday, but told customers they would adhere to state-issued guidelines.
“… That’s why we believe that the decision to open with very strict guidelines and principles and tools for businesses to open in an entirely different way than they were operating before will allow us to get our economy moving again without undue risk to the public,” Lee said. “That’s the movement forward, but we’re going to watch data every single day.”
The state reported 314 new cases Wednesday, a 3.1 percent increase over Tuesday, and 119 new hospitalizations. TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said the large number of new hospitalizations is the result of an enhanced effort to ensure accuracy of the data the department reports.