April 28, 2020 

Over the weekend, we learned that the City of Chattanooga and Mayor Andy Berke would no longer have the ability to map out its own process for reopening portions of our local economy. Instead, we will follow Governor Bill Lee’s plan and that of the Hamilton County Health Department.

While we believe, based on the advice of public health professionals and medical experts, that it is too early to be reopening our economy, we will of course comply with and support the Governor’s plan. The Governor’s plan can be found at https://www.tn.gov/governor/covid-19/economic-recovery.html

The quality of the public’s health and the strength of our economy are not at odds with each other — they depend on each other. And the City of Chattanooga will do our part to make this next phase of the crisis as successful as possible. Mayor Berke has made two pledges:

  • First, he will do everything in my power to ensure that Chattanooga businesses have the advice and personal protective equipment they need to open safely. If this is going to work, employees and customers have to feel confident that they can stay safe and healthy.
  • Second, our City government will continue to reach out and look for ways to help those affected by the ongoing pandemic and economic stoppage. Any rise in infections is going to hit the people in our city who are already the most vulnerable, and that is where our focus will be.

We know that these conflicting announcements have, understandably, caused a lot of confusion in our community about what businesses and residents can and cannot do. Here’s what we know. 

As of Tuesday, April 28, 2020: 

  • Based on Governor Lee’s reopening plan: 
    • Restaurants were able to open at 50 percent capacity on Monday, April 27. 
    • Starting Wednesday, April 29, retail stores can open at 50 percent capacity. 
    • The Governor’s shelter-in-place order will expire on Friday, May 1, which also means Mayor Berke’s order will expire too. 

Beginning Friday, May 1, 2020: 

  • Mayor Berke will issue an Executive Order that reopens: 
    • City-owned parks, trails, and public spaces — like the Walnut Street Bridge and Stringers Ridge. 
    • Public and private golf courses. 
    • Drive-through car washes. 
    • Pet grooming businesses. 

The data that we’ve been looking at for the last several weeks indicates that it’s time for us to loosen these restrictions. As we do this, these businesses still have a responsibility to keep people safe. That means:

  • Limiting occupancy to 10 people or fewer.
  • Wearing masks and gloves.
  • Maintaining physical distancing as much as possible.
  • Sanitizing and disinfecting your space frequently.  

Right now we know that guidance for churches, gyms, dental offices, and elective medical procedures will come later this week. Governor Lee also stated last week that salons, tattoo parlors, and spas would remain closed for a while longer.  

Mayor Berke, as part of the Tennessee Major Metros Economic Restart Task Force, also worked with the Mayors of Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville to create a framework for these areas to reopen their communities. This report is available at cha.city/covidrestart

Remember: we are still very much in the middle of this pandemic. You still have a part to play in keeping our community safe:

  • Please stay home if you can, especially if you are in a high risk category.
  • Wear a mask if you must be in public.
  • Maintain six feet of distance between you and other people.
  • Wash your hands and disinfect surfaces regularly.
  • Do not gather in large groups.