NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The governor has released his new plan to open the economy in Tennessee and it starts with restaurants and retail stores.
The governor's "Tennessee Pledge” is a plan to reopening businesses while observing safe working conditions to protect consumers and employees without giving a statewide mandate
Gov. Lee said he is working to safely reopen as many businesses as possible in 89 of Tennessee's 95 counties next week. The first businesses to reopen will be restaurants and retail stores.
Restaurants will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity starting on Monday. Retail outfits will be able to do the same starting on Wednesday.
The governor explained how the state will "gradually" enforce these new procedures and want make sure the customers feel safe.
"We expect businesses to accept the “pledge,” so we don’t have to make a mandate. The pledge allows guidelines for workers and consumers. We feel confident in the community’s response," Lee said. "It’s going to be enforced by the businesses themselves and the consumers...It’s up to Tennesseans to see it through."
The governor explained his reason for reopening the economy because "data showing Tennessee’s curve of novel coronavirus infections hitting a plateau."
The governor went on to say the average daily growth rate has remained stable for the past 14 days and there has been "a steady downward trajectory in positive tests as a percentage of total tests since April 1."
“We are pursuing a careful, measured approach to reopening our economy that does not depend on heavy-handed mandates but instead provides practical tools for businesses of all sizes," Lee said in a statement on Friday.
The governor told NEWS4 he wants these openings to be slow and when it comes to gyms, salons, tattoo parlors, and any other business where social distancing is not an option, he said it’s not time to open them back up.
The governor said the state health officials have ramped up testing throughout Tennessee with 33 testing sites available last weekend and 18 this weekend.
The governor is also working closely with Davidson, Shelby, Knox, Madison, Hamilton and Sullivan counties to support their unique reopen plans.
Unemployment was also an issue discussed by the governor as 15 percent of Tennessee’s workforce filed unemployment claims as of this week.
"Many Tennesseans are facing not just potential sickness but crippling financial hardship, particularly in the service industries," Lee said in a statement on Friday.
With 400,000 people on unemployment, it is possible the state could lose $5 billion during this year, the governor said.
"Like the rest of the country, Tennessee has taken an unprecedented economic hit with families and small businesses feeling the most pain,” Lee said. “We must stay vigilant as a state, continue to practice social distancing, and engage in best practices at our businesses so that we can stay open.”
The Tennessee Economic Recovery Group, assembled by Lee, worked with business leaders in both private and public sectors as well as mayors and health officials with the Unified Command to develop this plan.
“We need Tennessee businesses, workers, and consumers to step up and pledge to follow these guidelines,” Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell said in a statement on Friday. “It is critically important that we maintain our commitment to social distancing and adhere to these new guidelines so that we can continue to reopen our economy.”