Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: As of May 18, officials in Tennessee, US, have lifted multiple business restrictions, encourage residents to remain at home through May 29.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol, Tennessee
  • Jackson, Tennessee
  • Clarksville, Tennessee

This alert began 18 May 2020 13:30 GMT and is scheduled to expire 29 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Tennessee (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant business and travel disruptions; increased security

As of May 18, Tennessee Governor William Lee has issued orders encouraging residents to remain at home as much as possible through at least May 29, while lifting restrictions on additional businesses, as part of the state's response coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Residents are strongly encouraged to limit time outside of the home and limit interaction with other people as much as possible, as well as to wear face coverings when in public. Gatherings of 10 people or more will remain banned through at least May 29.

Authorities have also lifted restrictions on the following businesses. The lifting of restrictions applies to 89 of the state's 95 counties. Local authorities will determine what restrictions to impose in Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan.

  • Since April 27: Dine-in services at restaurants are allowed to resume, provided they operate at no more than half their seating capacity. Employees must wear protective face masks and gloves.
  • Since April 29: Retail stores are allowed to open subject to their compliance with similar capacity, sanitation, and protective gear protocols. Places of worship may also operate.
  • Since May 1: Gyms and training facilities are allowed to reopen. They must restrict occupancy to a maximum of 50 percent of its capacity and close showers and locker rooms.
  • Since May 6: Close-contact businesses, such as barbershops, hair salons, and massage therapy sessions, are allowed to reopen, limiting the number of customers to 50 percent of the facility's capacity, offer services by appointment only, and closing waiting areas.
  • Since May 8: Non-contact, small groups recreation businesses, such as bowling alleys, water sports, and mini-golf, are allowed to reopen, limiting the number of customers to 50 percent of its maximum capacity.
  • Starting May 22: Restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to offer dine-in services without capacity limitations; however, they must ensure social distancing measures and enhanced sanitation procedures remain in place. Authorities will also allow the reopening of larger attractions and entertainment venues, including racetracks, amusement parks, water parks, theaters, auditoriums, and museums. Specific guidelines for the reopening of larger attractions will be published in the coming days.

All businesses must ensure social distancing, enhance sanitation procedures, and encourage the use of face masks and other protective equipment for employees and customers. Employers should screen workers' health and not allow them to work if they have symptoms related to COVID-19. Customers should also be screened for potential COVID-19 symptoms.

Authorities in Davidson County, which includes the city of Nashville, have maintained orders for residents to remain at home, and most businesses to remain closed; however, since May 11, restaurants and retail stores may reopen while limiting the number of customers to 50 percent of its maximum capacity. Officials in Knox, Madison, Hamilton, Sullivan, and Shelby counties have lifted numerous restrictions on businesses, starting May 4.

Significant transport and business disruptions are likely statewide. Authorities will almost certainly keep additional security personnel deployed to assist in enforcing the remaining restrictions. Officials could amend the orders at short notice, depending on the disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The relaxation of some measures will likely accelerate in the coming weeks; however, restrictions may be reimposed or extended further should the number of COVID-19 cases increase. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in the areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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