Chattanooga will be under a shelter-in-place order beginning Saturday to curtail the spread of COVID-19, according to an executive order signed by Mayor Andy Berke Thursday afternoon, restricting citizens' travel, child care options and access to public spaces.
The order, Berke's sixth mandate in three weeks to address the virus, is the most sweeping directive for businesses and individuals in the city so far, putting the onus on residents to remain in their homes for all but the most critical activities, including work at an essential business, getting groceries or receiving medical attention.
The order also closes city parks and public spaces, boutiques such as clothing stores and other non-essential locations that were spared in Berke's last business order.
His action also closes child care programs that aren't serving essential personnel and restricts "non-essential" travel, which Berke described as traveling anywhere outside of essential locations, such as work or the grocery store.
Berke told the media that he recognizes the impact of closures on the economy and on Chattanoogans' normal lives, but the decision was made to protect the health of residents, which helps the economy.
"We issued a shelter-in-place order because we know that if we do that, our hospitals won't get as overwhelmed or won't get overwhelmed and that fewer people will contract the virus over time," Berke said. "We did that to make sure that we can get to the other side of this with the least human damage and the least economic damage possible."
Chattanooga is the second city in Tennessee, after Clarksville, to issue such a strict order.
The mandate remains in effect for seven days, at which point Berke may or may not choose to renew it, depending on the status of the virus locally.
Businesses not expressly listed as essential wishing to stay open should send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to the mayor's office.
Letter from Sarah Stein
Essential businesses allowed to operate under the order, according to the mayor's office:
- Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure as defined in this Order; "Healthcare Operations" does not include fitness and exercise gyms and similar facilities.
- Grocery and beverage stores, certified farmers' markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other similar establishments. This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences;
- Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
- Liquor stores
- Pet stores
- Drug stores
- Businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
- Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
- Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities;
- Banks and related financial institutions
- Hardware stores, home and business repair, construction, and facilities design businesses;
- Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning, janitorial, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses;
- Businesses providing mailing, shipping and logistic services, including post office boxes;
- Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
- Electronic, cell phone, and internet retail businesses;
- Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out.
- Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so under this Order on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and take- away basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided, or at any other gathering site;
- Manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, medical supplies, chemicals and sanitization, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, mining, construction, national defense, communications, as well as products used by other Essential Businesses;
- Businesses that supply other Essential Businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate or facilitate individuals to work from home;
- Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, or other goods, and those businesses providing exempt services directly to residences; Businesses that provide goods and services exclusively deliver through curb side pickup, drive-thru, shipment or delivery. For example, customers call and place order or order online, then customers pick up goods by curbside pick-up or goods are delivered to the customer. However, customers and employees must still adhere to the social distancing requirements to the greatest extent possible. Businesses can start providing goods by these delivery means even if they did not before.
- Transportation services including buses, airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers (such as Uber and Lyft) providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order;
- Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children, people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness;
- Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, children, people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness;
- Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities;
- Hotels and motels, to the extent used for lodging (restaurants and bars on hotel premises must close any dine-in facilities; however, take-out, delivery, and room service is allowed).
- Funeral homes, crematoriums, mortuary and burial services;
- Private waste removal and recycling services;
- Blood donor operations;
- All other critical infrastructure businesses not otherwise listed but identified in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response issued on March 19, 2020; and
According to the release, the Chattanooga Police Department is asking for voluntary compliance, but if officers encounter a business that refuses to comply, police can issue a Citation in Lieu of Arrest.
Enforcement for individuals is not specified in the order.
"I need people to stay home," Berke added. "We cannot have people gathering in public spaces just because they feel healthy right now. That mindset will place more people at greater risk for much longer."
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com.