CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Gov. Bill Lee has issued an executive order that will allow dine-in restaurants and retail stores to resume operations this week in Clarksville and Montgomery County.
The governor’s action preempts and cancels a local reopening plan and business permit process that was announced last week.
Lee announced his “Tennessee Pledge” on Friday, calling it the first step in a phased reopening of the state’s economy. The plan entails rebooting industries as they are safe to pursue in 89 of the state’s 95 counties, including Montgomery County. The state is working with Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan, which have locally controlled health departments, on plans to reopen businesses in those counties.
Lee announced that Tennessee restaurants are able to reopen Monday, April 27 at 50 percent occupancy. Additionally, Tennessee retailers are able to reopen on Wednesday at 50 percent occupancy. The state recommends that employees in both industries wear cloth face coverings and that business owners follow federal guidelines for hygiene and workplace sanitation standards related to the pandemic.
The governor’s plan does not yet allow personal services businesses, such as barbers, hair stylists and nail salons to open.
The full guidance offered by the state for both sectors can be found at https://www.tn.gov/governor/covid-19/economic-recovery.html.
The governor’s order also included a provision that preempts a local reopening plan announced Thursday by Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett and City of Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts.
“This Order shall supersede and preempt any emergency order, health order, or other order issued by a local official or local governmental entity addressing or otherwise related to COVID-19; provided, that the six locally run county health departments in Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, or Sullivan Counties shall have the authority to maintain any existing order or issue further restrictions regarding the operation of restaurants for the purposes of containment or management of the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Lee’s order states.
Mayor Durrett and Mayor Pitts and a team of staff members and local health officials had worked aggressively last week to build a local plan for reopening commercial activity in Clarksville-Montgomery County.
“Our local phased reopening and the operating permit process we intended to put into place will be set aside for now,” Mayor Pitts said Monday. “Further, our Executive Order No. 3 enacted by the City Council, which mandated business closings and stay-at-home measures, expires at midnight Tuesday, and will not be renewed. Our orders have been superseded by the Governor.”
“The governor’s lack of specifics in a timely manner put local governments in a reactive posture, instead of helping us help our community,” Mayor Pitts added.
Mayor Durrett also expressed frustration with the way the governor’s announcement unfolded.
“It’s unfortunate that the governor did not communicate his plans in advance,” Mayor Durrett said. “On April 20, he said, ‘the vast majority of businesses will be able to reopen by May 1st.’ So we worked like crazy to prepare for that, and then (Friday) he announced that restaurants and retail can open this week, and others have to wait. There must be better communication from our governor.”
Meanwhile, both mayors appealed to citizens to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19 by social distancing, using CDC hygiene practices, and wearing face coverings in public.
“Everyone must remember, we are not declaring victory, and we are still in a battle against COVID-19,” Mayor Pitts said. “Even as we strive to bring our community back to a reasonable level of activity, we must continue aggressive efforts to limit the spread of this serious disease.”
Complete federal Centers for Disease Control guidance on COVID-19 is online at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.