In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many businesses across the nation, including in Tennessee, have been forced to close their doors temporarily. As the nation attempts to restart a shutdown economy, Tennessee has begun phased openings of businesses in just the last couple of weeks. The state is now in the midst of the first phase of reopening, and individual towns and cities are beginning to lift restrictions, too.

The original stay-at-home order issued by Governor Bill Lee closed all non-essential businesses and restricted non-essential travel. However, with increased testing, increased PPE availability, increased health care capacity, and a decline in the growth rate of new cases for more than 14 days, the Governor has issued new reopening guidance for businesses.

Tennessee’s reopening plan

The Governor’s reopening plan, referred to as the Tennessee Pledge, utilizes Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommendations to provide businesses with safeguarding procedures and practices. Although the plan is not mandatory, Tennessee employers, customers, and employees are strongly encouraged to follow it, working together for a successful and safe reopening.

The executive orders issued by the Governor during the phased reopening process clearly state that if an industry or business fails to open and operate in a safe manner, or if negative health outcomes occur in an industry or business, additional safety mandates will be issued.

The reopening plan directs all businesses to screen employees coming to work for coronavirus symptoms. This includes employers asking employees whether they are presently experiencing symptoms of the virus and implementing temperature screening measures.

Employees who have symptoms are to leave the work premises and obtain medical care. In order to control exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, employers are directed to implement social distancing guidelines, perform cleaning and disinfection activities, post plenty of information on COVID-19 and new health policies, and enable work from home and telework if possible.

Employees are instructed to follow social distancing policies, remain at home when sick or feeling ill, practice personal hygiene to a greater degree than in the past, and wear cloth face coverings at work.

The state’s reopening plan also gives specific guidance for various industries that include exercise facilities, retailers, and restaurants.

Reopening guidance for Sevier County

In addition to the guidelines in the Tennessee Pledge issued by the Governor, a number of cities and counties in the state have also published recommendations. Sevier County, for example, has issued recommendations for reopening in light of its major industry, tourism. The recommendations have the protection of residents and visitors in mind. Sevier County and its cities are not currently engaging in direct marketing activity to visitors and tourists in order to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

However, Sevier County is proceeding to open non-essential businesses in phases, such as hotels and restaurants.

Some of the specific recommendations for the reopening of these restaurants in the County include encouraging contactless payment, maintaining 50% seating capacity, closing by 11 PM, maximum of six guests per table, bars remaining closed, frequent cleaning and sanitizing of restrooms per Health Departmental and CDC guidelines.

Some of the specific recommendations for reopening retail businesses in the County include issuing email receipts instead of printed receipts when possible, disinfecting credit card machines between each use, and frequent restroom cleaning, and sanitizing according to CDC and Health Department guidelines.

On May 8, Governor Lee issued Executive Order 35, which allows for the reopening of small group, non-contact entertainment and recreational venues pursuant to new safety guidelines, beginning Friday, May 8.

The progress involved in fighting COVID-19 and measures to reopen the economy are ongoing week to week and sometimes day to day. At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our attorneys are here to help you stay informed. We put the safety of our clients and staff as our number one priority. Our services extend the residents of Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Seymour, and the surrounding areas in Tennessee. To request a free review of your case, give us a call today at 865.428.8780 or use our contact form.