On Tuesday afternoon, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs released a proposal for a phased reopening of the economy that he hopes will go into effect in the coming weeks. The proposal details the procedures that businesses could take to safely reopen while still helping slow the spread of COVID-19.
Mayor Jacob’s proposal comes just one day after Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the extension of Tennessee’s stay-at-home order from April 14 to April 30.
“Gov. Lee’s decision to extend the Safer at Home Order was made taking statewide numbers into account,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Knox County is one of 95 Tennessee counties and as long as our community continues to make good and responsible choices, I believe we can, and should, start taking steps to reopen businesses. The longer the economy is shut down, the more difficult it’s going to be to get it back on track.”
Mayor Jacobs’ three page proposal outlines ways that businesses, including venues, restaurants and bars, retail stores, personal appearance businesses and health clubs, parks and playgrounds, could safely reopen in the coming weeks. It encourages many of these to limit business hours, require employees to stay home if sick, continue encouraging social distancing and continue practicing increased cleanliness.
The proposal gives specific outlines for each type of business, with most opening slowly, staggering the amount of people allowed in stores over time. For example, restaurants will reopen dining areas to only half of their capacity for two weeks, increase it to 75% capacity for the next two weeks and consider a full reopening after these four weeks.
“It isn’t a choice between healthy people and a healthy economy, or it shouldn’t be. The general public doesn’t need the government ordering an economic shut down so people will stay home,” Mayor Jacobs said. “Those who are sick or in a high-risk category should make the choice to stay home or continue taking extreme precautions when leaving home. Everyone else should be able to return to work and take responsibility for making their own healthy choices.”
Mayor Jacobs has been increasingly critical of states and politicians that have increased regulation of self isolation and have been pushing for a mandatory quarantine.
“We are working with the Knox County Health Department and Dr. Martha Buchanan to get guidelines in place to keep parishioners safe when our churches re-open, which we hope is sooner rather than later,” Mayor Jacobs said. “The pandemic is serious, and I certainly don’t want to underestimate it, but we must strike a balance between safety and violating outright any constitutional rights granted by the First Amendment.”
Mayor Jacobs has submitted the proposal to Governor Lee in hopes that it will be used for not only Knox County, but Tennessee as a whole.
Gov. Lee stated in a press conference on Monday announcing the extension of the stay-at-home order that he is in support of reopening the economy as soon as possible.
“It is clear that our economy cannot stay shut down for months on end,” Gov. Lee said, “We need Tennesseans to go back to work.”
Though Mayor Jacobs and Gov. Lee are both in support of reopening the economy sooner rather than later, the safety of Tennesseans will still be put first. The reopening of the economy and the end of the stay-at-home order are both dependent on the lack of a significant increase of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee and the United States.
As of Tuesday, there are 35 active cases of COVID-19 in Knox County.