It would be nice for us to snap our fingers and return the country to the place it was before anyone heard of the COVID-19 virus.
That, of course, is impossible.
But as the country emerges from the fallout of the global pandemic, states, counties and cities are forming their own plans to reopen their economies. Normally, we would expect no less. We say we don't want the federal government to dictate too much to us, so significant powers are delegated to the individual states, according to the Constitution.
Yet all counties and cities aren't the same, so we don't expect states to treat them the same, especially where it comes to their economies, the populations those economies serve and the amount of virus in those counties.
But until today Tennessee, Hamilton County and Chattanooga were mixed up in a cauldron of what can open, what can't and who's in charge here. We wish there had been more communication.
It all began Friday when Gov. Bill Lee — based on scientific data his administration relied on — said he would let his previous stay-at-home order to expire on April 30. In doing so, he said restaurants and stores could open this week with restrictions on capacity and continued suggestions for social distancing, masks and hand-washing. Lee said his new orders applied to 89 of the 95 counties but that larger counties with their own health departments — including Hamilton — could proceed with their own reopening plans.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he would go along with the governor's guidance and allow those establishments in the county to reopen, but Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said he did not plan to follow suit. He said he and the mayors of the state's three other largest cities would determine when their restaurants and stores would open based on advice of their Big Four Economic Restart Task Force.
On Saturday, however, a spokesman for Lee indicated orders by county health departments in the six larger counties would be the rule, thus superseding Berke and the other big-city mayors. Yet a spokesman for the local health department when asked about the situation deferred to Coppinger, who had said he would follow the governor's guidance.
On Sunday, Berke, cognizant of the additional information from the governor's office, said the city would "obey the law" but added he didn't think it would allow citizens to feel as safe as they should feel.
We would have preferred the Lee administration to have conferred with the mayors ahead of time so the weekend confusion wouldn't have ensued, but an attorney general's opinion Monday made it clear the governor through the county health departments has the final word.
"[T]he Governor's directives in response to an emergency," the opinion said, "supersede and preempt any action taken by political divisions of the State."
All together, it didn't make for the comforting start the public should have in considering re-entering restaurants and business establishments after more than a month following a virus outbreak that has killed 13 people in Hamilton County.
Going forward, we believe what individuals should do comes down to common sense. With no vaccine available, senior citizens and people with compromised health should stay at home as much as possible. Social distancing and the avoidance of handshakes and hugs still should be the rule of thumb for the time being.
When anyone, young or old, ventures to where there will be a number of people, such as a grocery store or big-box retailer, they should wear a mask and consider using gloves in touching things that may have been fingered by a number of other people.
If one goes into a restaurant or a retailer where health precautions are not being taken, one should turn around and walk back out. An establishment that doesn't care enough about its clientele to take such measures doesn't deserve your business. The same goes for people who don't take precautions. One should avoid being around such individuals or groups of individuals unless they are practicing personal health precautions. In the case of this pandemic, a true friendship should be able to withstand a time of separation.
But if individuals are smart about what they do and where they go, and restaurants and retailers follow the reopening guidance set down by the governor, no one should have to worry about a resurgence of the virus, despite the warnings of those who would have establishments remain closed for months longer.
Yes, there are and will be many who don't pay attention to health precautions, but if the world waited for everyone to be in line, restaurants and retailers would never reopen.
Now, as things move beyond the initial reopenings, assuming no resurgence of the virus occurs, we hope the governor, the Hamilton County mayor and the Chattanooga mayor will work off the same page, even if they can't agree on every detail.