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Staff photo by Tim Barber / The City Annex is located directly across East 11th Street from Chattanooga's City Hall.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations grow in Hamilton County, the city of Chattanooga will suspend public access to City Hall, City Annex and the city services at the Development Resource Center beginning Monday, just three weeks after the same facilities reopened.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga City Hall to reopen, but only for people who wear masks)

According to a release by the Chattanooga mayor's office, the city will not allow members of the public to enter, in order to protect citizens and employees from the ongoing global pandemic.

"COVID-19 is continuing to rapidly spread throughout the Chattanooga area and the city of Chattanooga is taking additional steps to reduce person-to-person contact in order to protect residents and employees," the statement released late Wednesday said.

In order to determine when facilities will reopen, city officials say they will monitor data from the county health department.

"Moving forward, Mayor Andy Berke and the city's operations staff will evaluate a set of discrete metrics, including new positive COVID cases per 100,000 residents and the seven-day average of active cases, to make determinations as to if, when and how public access may resume," the release says. "Hamilton County Health Department is currently reporting more than 30 new positive cases per 100,000 residents and a steady upward trend in new cases."

According to the release, the decision comes after infections in multiple city employees, including at two sites that may have posed a risk to the public.

"Hamilton County has seen more than 4,400 COVID positive cases in our community, and city employees have not been immune," it says. "However, with the exception of cases within city court and the Wood Recycling Center, positive COVID cases among city employees have been deemed to pose no risk to the public by the Hamilton County Health Department's epidemiologists."

While the city says there are no current plans to alter services or restrict access to any additional public outdoor spaces, the release warns that further outbreaks could hinder city services.

"Departments will continue to provide all services, including police, fire and solid waste removal, but an unforeseen outbreak or additional positivity among city employees could cause a disruption in service."

In the meantime, the county will continue offering in-person services at the Development Resource Center and the city court and clerk's office will remain open under the Tennessee Supreme Court's order that allowed for in-person proceedings to resume.

However, citations can still be paid online at municipalonlinepayments.com, and the city encourages citizens to participate remotely when possible.

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

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