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Effective at midnight Wednesday many Chattanooga businesses must close for the foreseeable future, per an executive order signed by Mayor Andy Berke to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The order, like similar actions in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis and other cities, has left many business owners wondering what that means for their companies.
Below is a Q&A between the Times Free Press and the mayor's office based on questions submitted by readers.
What retail stores are to be closed?
Executive Order 2020-04 closes businesses that cannot by nature implement social distancing practices. These include common spaces and retail stores accessed inside shopping malls, spas, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, nightclubs, concert venues, etc.
What about retail stores that are open?
For all other retail stores that are allowed to remain open under the executive order, we're urging they comply with the CDC's social distancing regulations of a minimum six-feet distance. If an employee has a fever they should be sent home immediately. Additionally, if a store has the ability to take online orders and allow for pickup, we strongly encourage that.
How about convenience stores and gas stations?
These will remain open.
Are child care facilities affected?
Childcare facilities will remain open.
What about outdoor businesses like golf courses?
Businesses like Academy Sports, Dick's Sporting Goods, etc. can remain open, however, we encourage social distancing and implementing online orders and pickup service. Golf courses will remain open, however, we're suggesting no more than one person to a golf cart to comply with social distancing policies.
What's the punishment for businesses caught operating outside of the executive order?
At this time [the Chattanooga Police Department] will be using their discretion to educate business owners and customers about the mandates required in EO 2020-02, 2020-04 and the Governor's EO #17. Additional enforcement may be required with owners who are repeatedly not complying with social distancing rules. To report a business out of compliance residents can call 311 at 423-643-6311.
Is the city likely to close more businesses?
The City may have to take additional steps to protect public health and safety depending on how circumstances change.
Business categories that the paper received questions about and where they stand under the executive order:
Gas stations and convenience stores
Walmart and Target
Home improvement/gardening stores
Mechanics and other technical/trade stores
Cell phone stores
Clothing stores not accessed through a mall
Stores with exterior entrances at malls that do not violate social distancing policies (Barnes & Noble)
Non-essential medical practices (dentists, chiropractors, etc. — for the time being)
Department and clothing stores only accessible inside malls
Hair and nail salons
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor