The City of Chattanooga is taking several proactive steps through social distancing to ensure the health and safety of City staff and the community as this virus continues to spread across Tennessee and around the world.
On Thursday, March 12, Governor Bill Lee declared a State of Emergency, which will give Tennessee access to additional federal funding to combat the coronavirus. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Tennessee was set to receive $10 million from the federal government to help with the state’s response. As of Friday morning, there are no confirmed cases in Hamilton County but there are 18 cases in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
This morning, Friday, March 13, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke signed Executive Order 2020-01, establishing a Communicable Disease Policy for the City of Chattanooga and declaring a state of emergency in Chattanooga, as allowed under the provisions of TCA 58-8-104.
“As your Mayor, my goal is to continue to provide a high-performing government that will be nimble, flexible, and capable of meeting the challenges of this pandemic as they come, which is why this morning I signed an Executive Order establishing a Communicable Disease Policy,” Mayor Berke said.
Beginning immediately, the City of Chattanooga will suspend all public access and activities at the Eastgate Senior Center and cancel all city-sponsored senior activities until further notice. The CDC has stated that one population at serious risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 are those who are ages 60 and older.
The City will also indefinitely suspend the approval of permits for public gatherings and are taking the steps to cancel all currently planned City-sponsored events. This is being done as the CDC suggests avoiding crowds as a way to help slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.
Additionally, the City of Chattanooga will suspend all public access and activities at all Chattanooga Youth and Family Development Centers and Chattanooga Library branches beginning on Saturday, March 14 until further notice. Events at the Tivoli Theatre, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Auditorium, Walker Theatre, and Finley Stadium are also postponed until further notice.
“Nothing slows the spread of COVID-19 as effectively as social distancing, as frustrating as it may be,” Mayor Berke added. “While these decisions are not made easily, and we know how frustrating they will be for many citizens, we have a responsibility to act in the best interests of everyone’s health and safety.”
Department Administrators have created a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) that protects employees and residents and continues to provide a level of service in the face of this emergency.
The City of Chattanooga will be instituting a rolling telecommuting policy to reduce the density of people in open facilities. This will be done at the administrator’s discretion. Additionally, the City of Chattanooga is committed to paying those who are working from home either by City mandate or because of any necessary quarantine.
Core services such as trash and brush pickup, police and fire services will not be reduced. Also, the payment of property taxes, sewer fees, and other financial transactions will still be conducted on the first floor of City Hall, which will remain open during normal business hours.
With the announcement that Hamilton County Schools (HCS) are closed until March 30, all Chattanooga Head Start/Early Head Start Centers will follow HCS’ schedule.
Since this situation is evolving rapidly, Mayor Berke has appointed his senior policy advisor to coordinate the office’s response, including working with our regional governmental partners and other community stakeholders to track the situation and ensure that our response is properly aligned with Hamilton County Government, the State of Tennessee, and federal government agencies.
The City will use a variety of communications methods to keep City staff and the community informed and will evaluate on a weekly basis how to reallocate staff in the most efficient way possible and monitor the situation as it may pertain to the operations of public facilities.
The safety and health of the Chattanooga community and its employees are the City’s top priority and we appreciate everyone’s patience during this time.
The Tennessee Department of Health provides daily testing updates at https://www.tn.gov/health/cedep/ncov.html