Non-essential retailers and gyms will be able to reopen this week in Hamilton County, including Chattanooga, as county Mayor Jim Coppinger continues to follow the state's lead on lifting COVID-19 related restrictions on industries affected by the virus in recent weeks.
Coppinger released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that all retail businesses in the county will be reopened on Wednesday, which Gov. Bill Lee announced late last week for 89 of the state's 95 counties.
Hamilton County, as one of the largest in the state, has been allowed to make its own decisions on reopening and has followed the state each step of the way as restaurants were allowed to resume dine-in service on Monday and nonessential retailers like boutiques are allowed to reopen Wednesday.
"All retail stores shall comply with the guidelines found in the 'Tennessee Pledge: Reopening Tennessee Responsibly' document, found on Hamilton County's website at www.HamiltonTN.gov," the statement read, urging business owners to follow safety precautions and to only operate at 50% of their individual building capacity, despite a lack of enforcement measures in place by the state or county.
Coppinger told the Times Free Press after sending the statement that his decision would definitely apply to the city of Chattanooga. Coppinger said the governor's office clarified that the county had the authority on this decision following confusion between the city and state about restaurant and retail reopening authority.
Coppinger also said that he will support the state's recent guidance on reopening gyms in Hamilton Coounty.
Under the plan spelled out Tuesday by the state's Economic Recovery Group, workout facilities, which were among the first businesses to close in March, will be able to reopen Friday at half capacity.
Hamilton Place and Northgate malls will reopen on Friday after having closed for weeks amid the coronavirus outbreak, though the shopping centers are putting into place a variety of measures for safety reasons.
The Chattanooga malls will open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays, according to the malls' websites.
Individual store and restaurant hours and operations may vary, the websites said. The malls suggested calling ahead to confirm an individual retailers' hours.
At the same time, CBL Properties, the malls' operator, said it's implementing a number of protective measures to keep it employees, retail partners, and the community healthy.
"We ask that the public exercise good judgment when visiting the property, including following CDC guidelines for social distancing and hygiene practices," the websites said. "We also ask that anyone with a fever or experiencing other symptoms, to stay home."
Among the measures:
* Encourage everyone on property to follow social distancing guidelines.
* Prohibit groups of more than 10 people congregating in the mall common area.
* Mall events are cancelled or postponed until further notice.
* Closed until further notice are the food court seating areas, but the food court tenants are encouraged to reopen for carry-out service. Also closed are the children's play area, soft seating areas and common area gathering spaces, and drinking fountains.
In addition, the malls are requiring mall management staff to wear masks while in common areas, public spaces or when other individuals are present. Vendors and contractors are required to wear masks in the common areas, public spaces or when other people are present.
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