Officials in Tennessee have extended the state's coronavirus (COVID-19)-related state of emergency through Dec. 29 due to a significant increase in transmission rates. Nevertheless, the move essentially only facilitates obtaining federal funds to fight COVID-19; the state's existing county-oriented strategy for dealing with the disease remains largely unchanged, with the exception that an order enabling county officials to determine whether to make the use of facemasks in public settings mandatory within their jurisdictions has been extended until Dec. 31.
State-level business restrictions had previously been lifted. While Tennessee does maintain a set of statewide guidelines for businesses to reopen, the measures are not mandatory. The guidelines encourage companies to allow employees to work from home and implement enhanced sanitation procedures. They also advise employers to perform health screenings on workers and send home any employees exhibiting symptoms associated with COVID-19. The state guidelines also urge the use of facemasks and social distancing measures. Additionally, the state government allows local officials in Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan counties to impose their own local restrictions.
Davidson County, which includes the city of Nashville, remains on Phase 3 of the county's economic recovery plan. Under the current directives, restaurants, bars, gyms, and personal care businesses may open at 50-percent capacity; retail stores and commercial businesses may operate at 75-percent capacity. All restaurants and bars must close nightly at 2300. Gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited without a permit; planned events are allowed at 30-percent of the venue capacity with a maximum of 500 people. Residents must wear facemasks whenever they leave their homes.
In Shelby County, most businesses are allowed to operate without capacity restrictions, but enforce social distancing standards and other hygienic measures. Restaurants and bars may operate but must close for in-person service nightly at 2359. Festivals, fairs, and large-scale sporting and community events remain canceled. The use of facemasks is mandatory for residents over the age of two in public settings. Officials in Knox and Hamilton counties have adopted the state measures, but have ordered residents to wear protective face coverings in enclosed settings outside their homes.
Authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.
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.