As our cities and counties move forward with reopening plans and procedures, local leaders remind citizens that we are not returning to “normal.” Our new normal will look different, with business and health precautions remaining a large part of everyday life. It is more important than ever to continue safe practices to avoid a spike in COVID-19 cases. These best practices – as outlined by the CDC and local health departments – have helped to keep the number of positive cases low in our region.
While facilities resume operations, it is imperative that everyone:
- Keep adequate social distance – maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and others when out in public.
- Limit gatherings – per Gov. Bill Lee, gatherings must be limited to 10 or less people.
- Wash hands – wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands before eating or preparing food, after using the restroom, after coughing or sneezing, and after going anywhere in public.
- Avoid touching your face – avoid touching any part of your face, especially eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wear a cloth mask – masks not only lower the risk of you breathing in airborne viruses but greatly reduce you spreading a virus, even if you don’t feel ill. We now know that some of those positive for coronavirus are asymptomatic. Please use cloth masks and save medical-grade PPE for medical and frontline personnel.
- Disinfect surfaces – take time to disinfect all spaces, from work to vehicle to home. Clean frequently used items like mobile phones and keys.
- Stay home – if you’re feeling sick or think you might be sick, stay home.
- Avoid nonessential travel – at this time, it’s still best to avoid traveling outside the Tri-Cities area and to only leave your home for essential activities.
Area government leaders and health officials recognize the importance of reopening our area but doing so safely is crucial to its success. The path forward is a cautious one, as the safety and health of our communities remains the top priority.
With the best practices in mind, Kingsport will be following the Sullivan County Regional Health Department’s Public Health Order #2 starting Monday, April 27. Kingsport will issue an amendment next week to the current city declaration to put the order in place.
The order closely follows Governor Lee’s plan and his Tennessee Pledge plan for businesses. Restaurants and retail should follow the Tennessee Pledge plan for their reopening, paying special attention to the protecting employees and protecting customers guidelines.
The Sullivan County Regional Health Department plan lists special situations that our business owners and residents should be aware of. Those include:
- SCHOOLS AND ORGANIZED YOUTH ACTIVITIES (e.g. camps) that are currently closed remain closed.
- VISITS TO SENIOR LIVING FACILITIES AND HOSPITALS shall be prohibited. Those who do interact with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene.
- LARGE VENUES ( e.g. sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols while following guidance issued by State of Tennessee specific to type of business. See Tennessee Pledge.
- Elective surgeries may resume, as clinically appropriate, following CDC protective guidelines, and specific guidance issued by the State of Tennessee.
- Dental Offices/healthcare practices may open while maintaining social distancing and following CDC recommendations with appropriate PPE and specific guidance issued by the State of Tennessee.
- Other non-essential businesses may open but adhere to strict social distancing guidelines, use precautionary measure, and follow guidance issued by the State of Tennessee specific to business type.
- Personal contact business (i.e., barber shops, nail salons, cosmetology business, etc.) that cannot maintain social distancing measures may not reopen until appropriate safety guidelines have been developed by the Tennessee Department of Health.
Our city’s directive is to maintain compliance with the health department’s public health order. Residents should watch for more information to be released next week in regards to the city’s plan for opening city and government facilities.
For more information or for questions, please contact the Sullivan County Regional Health Department at 423-279-2777.