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This story was updated at 6:24 p.m. on Thursday, April 16, 2020, with more information.

Chattanooga is partnering with Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville to help weather the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak across the state.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke announced Thursday the formation of an economic recovery task force led by mayors of the state's four major cities.

According to a release from Berke's office, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Nashville Mayor John Cooper, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Berke have formed the Tennessee Major Metros Economic Restart Task Force to plan and coordinate the restoration of business activity suspended due to the virus.

(READ MORE: These are the Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama COVID-19 cases and deaths by county)

"We have a global pandemic across the world that has led to economic devastation," Berke said in a news conference late Thursday. "I know that Chattanoogans want to be safe and healthy. They also want to work. We have got to find ways throughout the [pandemic] to make both work."

Berke said the task force will focus on three major questions:

— When cities can re-open businesses and what has to happen before that.

— What kinds of businesses can reopen in what period of time.

— What restrictions need to be in place as businesses return to a new normal.

"From the beginning of this crisis, Tennessee's major metro areas have been aligned on how to respond to this crisis," Berke said in the release. "We're going to stay aligned as we plan for a prosperous and healthy future."

The task force includes business leaders and health care professionals appointed jointly by each metro area's city and county mayors. Task force appointees were vetted with and agreed to by the county mayors in each metropolitan area — Lee Harris of Shelby County, Glenn Jacobs of Knox County and Jim Coppinger of Hamilton County.

The group will rely on medical experts and evaluate fiscal conditions to develop economic and public health protocols to "re-open" the cities after a series of local and state executive orders closed a majority of non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the virus.

"Hopefully we are seeing the effects of that right now," Berke said, noting that Chattanooga was among the most aggressive cities in terms of business closures. "We have to continue to be vigilant These are extremely difficult topics and we need to listen to experts."

Berke said that as of Thursday there was no time frame estimated for restrictions to be listed.

 

Members of the task force include:
 

CHATTANOOGA

Philip Byrum, Monen Family Restaurant Group

Wade Hinton, Unum

Dr. Kathleen Hunt, Children's Hospital at Erlanger

Mitch Patel, Vision Hospitality Group

 

MEMPHIS

Alan Crone, Crone Law Firm

Charles Ewing, Ewing Moving and Storage

Dr. Manoj Jain, infectious disease specialist

Kevin Kane, Memphis Tourism

Beverly Robertson, Greater Memphis Chamber

 

NASHVILLE

Dr. James Hildreth, Meharry Medical College

Laura Hollingsworth, Ryman Hospitality

Dr. Alex Jahangir, Head of Metro Coronavirus Task Force

Rob McCabe, Pinnacle Financial Partners and Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

 

KNOXVILLE

Kathy Brown, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Dave Miller, First Horizon Bank

Mike Odom, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce

Ryan Steffy, SoKno Taco Restaurant

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.

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