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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

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Health Department

A Community Strategy for Phased Reopening

Knox County & City of Knoxville


COVID-19 and Your Organization

The guiding principle of the Knox County/City of Knoxville plan is that our community is stronger when we collaborate. In these challenging and uncertain times, no one can foresee the road ahead. What we can see clearly is the dynamic ability of our community to confront new challenges.

The Community Strategy for Phased Reopening is a three-phased approach that begins May 1, 2020, and emphasizes partnership with individuals, businesses and the many sectors of our community. We are a community of problem-solvers and innovators who can come together to address the unparalleled public health and economic challenges facing our region.

Employers and community organizations are asked to play a lead role in ensuring we can safely reopen and stay open. By working together to ensure the safety of employees and patrons alike, we can protect public health, promote public trust and consumer confidence, and rebuild our economy. The key resources for employers and organizations are outlined below. More resources and information will be added regularly to this webpage. We encourage you to check it frequently.

Phase Two

  • Phase Two begins Tuesday, May 26.
  • The full guidance can be found here (also available in Spanish).

In addition to the “General Guidelines for Everyone Throughout all Phases” outlined in our plan, the Phase Two recommendations include:

  • Limiting social settings and gatherings to 50 people maximum. This increase from phase one doesn’t change the need to physically distance.
  • Continuing to encourage telework, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
  • Implementing strict physical distancing protocols when possible.
  • Increasing services slowly, when possible, to give the business time to build and test safety protocols.
  • Limiting use of common areas where employees are likely to congregate and interact.
  • Considering special accommodations for higher-risk individuals.
  • Operating by walk-in registration, appointment or reservation when possible. This means collecting the name and phone number of at least one member of each patron group/household who have close contact with them. As the community continues to reopen, there is greater risk for increased cases and clusters. Retaining this information will help with rapid notification to people who may have been exposed, helping to prevent future exposures among employees, patrons, family members, and others.

Regarding who may open in Phase Two, most industries can operate as long as they can maintain safety and health precautions. The industry-specific guidelines will be shared on Friday, but in the meantime, to help businesses plan, KCHD is providing a general list of the types of businesses that may open with restrictions in place in Phase Two. Phase Two builds upon Phase One, so if an industry was open in Phase One, they remain open.

In Phase Two:

  • The food service category expands to include food truck parks, bars and all other business models that include food or beverage onsite consumption
  • Indoor leisure facilities
  • Childcare and summer camps. It should be noted that overnight programs remain closed in Phase Two
  • Pools, splash pads and other water venues
  • With the exception of playgrounds, other outdoor recreation spaces may open
  • Community centers and libraries may open. However, Senior Centers remain closed
  • Indoor and outdoor event venues may operate with a maximum of 50 guests

Your Steps to Reopening

Many more details are in the plan and the Phase Two Amendment; this webpage provides only a general overview.

  1. Designate a COVID-19 Coordinator
    Each organization is asked to select a COVID-19 coordinator for each of their physical locations. The COVID-19 coordinator will lead the implementation of strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This individual may be familiar with workplace safety (such as a safety point person, risk manager, employee health coordinator, etc.) or may have no previous experience with this topic.

    Key qualities of a coordinator include someone who will take action to implement the recommended measures, stay aware of changes to recommendations through the official communication channels listed on this website, and has the authority to reinforce the need to follow the measures on an ongoing basis throughout the reopening phases.

    Each COVID-19 Coordinator should be the person from that organization who signs up for the COVID-19 email listserv. Please limit registrants to this listserv to just one person per physical location. Email listservs have member limitations, so restricting participation within each organization will help maximize our reach. COVID-19 coordinators can register here for the listserv.

    Listserv Registration
  2. Stay Informed & Follow the Guidance
    Please be aware that due to the volume of requests, the Knox County Health Department will not be able to gauge the setup of all business operations or approve all plans. Instead, use the resources outlined in the plan and on this website.

    • Review the details in the plan and the Phase Two Amendment.
      Follow the “General Guidelines for Everyone Throughout All Phases” (pages 14-16 in the plan), Phase One “General Guidance for Employers and Other Organizations” (page 17 in the plan), and the “Guidance for Specific Types of Employers and Other Organizations” (pages 18-26 in the plan).

    • Watch our video presentations on the general guidelines.
      Videos that provide more information on general guidelines for phased reopening are available on our social media pages (Facebook and Twitter) or click here

      Knox County Health Dept R 4192 200430 Phased Reopening ( English | Spanish )
    • Attend virtual training sessions
      Industry-specific Zoom calls will be scheduled with COVID-19 Coordinators throughout the reopening process via the listserv. Please keep in mind that each call has capacity limitations. Therefore, those who are not able to register for the calls, can review them afterwards as they will be recorded and posted on this website.

    • Still have questions? Call 3-1-1
      This call center will be able to answer general guidance questions. While some members are already activated, a multi-agency team is being developed to answer more detailed guidance when necessary.

      Communicating the details in this plan to every business and organization in the entire county is quite an undertaking. Please be patient with us and our multi-agency team as we anticipate the volume of questions to be high.

      Before you call, you can find some of our most common questions and answers here.

  3. Implement safety strategies and policies
    Focus on policies that will protect your employees as well as your customers. Develop your strategies in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance that are informed by industry best practices, including (see the plan for more details):

    • Physical distancing and protective equipment

    • General sanitation

    • Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas

    • Business travel

  4. Monitor workforce for symptoms and take action
    More details are in the plan, but the guidelines include:

    • Screening employees daily by asking a set of questions (see plan and safety signage below),

    • Requiring employees to self-isolate/quarantine when recommended,

    • Preventing symptomatic employees from physically returning to the workplace while they are ill,

    • Implementing generous sick leave policies, and

    • Maintaining employee privacy by not unnecessarily sharing information.

  5. Post Safety Signage

    An important way employers can protect the health of their employees and customers is by displaying information on the basic ways we can all do our part. To help educate employees and the public, workplaces should print and post these two safety signs. The first sign is for display on the public entrance of each organization. The second sign is for display on employee entrances. If there is only one entrance, both signs can be displayed at that entrance. These signs are also available in Spanish.

  6. Develop and implement ways to track close contact interactions.
    Employers should prepare and implement strategies for determining and tracking close contact interactions between staff and between staff and customers (for example, keeping detailed appointment records and worker shift pairings so you can easily help public health determine close contacts, if needed). This will allow potential cases to be isolated quickly should an employee or customer test positive for COVID-19, preventing future transmissions which protects health and the employer’s ability to continue to serve the community. 

  7. Encourage your customers and clients to follow the guidelines in the plan and the Phase Two Amendment for everyone.
    Everyone has a role including maintaining physical distance, practicing good hygiene, staying home if they are sick and being courteous to your employees. The Hierarchy of Controls provides practical strategies you can incorporate at your organization.

  8. Visit this webpage regularly for additional resources.