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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

Health Department

A Community Strategy for Phased Reopening

Knox County & City of Knoxville

What You Need to Know

The Knox County/City of Knoxville phased reopening plan (also available in Spanish) and the Phase Two Amendment are complementary to Governor Lee’s “Tennessee Pledge: Reopening Tennessee Responsibly” framework and the White House’s “Opening Up America Again” guidance. The Knox County/City of Knoxville plan provides local guidance and a strategy for supporting a safe, phased reopening. If there are differences between the federal, state and local plans, the community should follow the local guidance, unless specific references to state guidance are stated. As additional federal and state recommendations are released, amendments to our local plan may be issued.

In Governor Lee’s “Tennessee Pledge” announced previously, Knox County and the other metro counties in the state were given the authority to create their own local plans.

The local plan provides recommendations for everyone, not just employers and local businesses, as all of us have a role.

In addition to the Knox County/City of Knoxville phased reopening plan, Governor Lee’s Office has provided Guidance for Gathering Together in Houses of Worship

Phase Two in the Knox County/City of Knoxville phased reopening plan will begin Tuesday, May 26.

Bottom Line

The reopening plan, including Phase Two, is not a return to pre-pandemic normal. Knox County has a phased, reopening strategy. Everyone has a role in protecting public health; this includes patrons, shoppers, employees and employers.

Everyone Should

More details are in the plan, but essentially, in Phase Two everyone needs to do the following.

  • Follow the Five Core Principles of the plan:
    • Practice social distancing,
    • Wearing cloth face coverings when in public and social distancing can’t be achieved,
    • Wash your hands properly and often,
    • Clean surfaces regularly, and
    • Stay home when sick.
  • Do not gather in groups of 50 or more.
  • Assume you are infectious and that others are as well, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
  • Show Courtesy to others, especially workers:
    • When patronizing a business, stay at least 6 feet away from employees whenever possible,
    • Follow directions on safety signage displayed in businesses, and
    • Be a part of keeping things clean - use hand sanitizer stations, cloth face coverings, grocery cart sanitizer wipes, and other means to protect yourself and others.


As we locally advance through the phases, we anticipate an increase in active cases at each phase due to the low number of initial active cases. The focus of the benchmarks outlined here is on assessing the local ability to manage an increase in cases while preventing the unobstructed growth of transmission. Our low initial active case counts will likely mean we will not obtain a downward trend throughout the phases of the reopening process. Our community demonstrated success in flattening the curve before it truly started. Due to this initial success, future phases will result in increased numbers of active case counts. This alone is not a reason to revert to a previous phase or not advance to the next phase.

Decisions about how to move through the phases or whether to institute mid-phase adjustments will not be made based on any one number or figure. Decisions must be made by looking at multiple data points and trends, while incorporating public health expertise and developments in science and technology. All of these factors must be considered when determining when and how to proceed through the reopening process. For a closer look at the local and regional data, including the benchmarks that must be met, click here.

Higher-risk Individuals

In Phase Two, those who are at higher-risk of complications from COVID-19 should stay at home as much as possible and follow the “General Guidelines for Everyone Throughout all Phases”. Additionally, members of households with higher-risk residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home

Higher-risk individuals include those over the age of 65, and those with serious underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised.

More information about higher-risk individuals can be found on the CDC’s website

Employers, Businesses, and Community Organizations

  • Review the plan for industry-specific guidance, including information on Phase Two.
  • Visit this webpage regularly for additional resources.
  • Employers and other organizations have three main ways to get additional information about the plan:
    • Call 3-1-1 – This call center will be able to answer general guidance questions and can refer callers to others with more detailed guidance when necessary.
    • Attend virtual training sessions – Those who are not able to register for the calls can review them afterwards as they will be recorded and posted on this website.
    • Designate a COVID-19 Coordinator – 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.
    • Sign up for the email listserv

Updates to local reopening plan

Under Governor Lee’s “Tennessee Pledge: Reopening Tennessee Responsibly” framework, metro health departments are empowered to create strategies relevant to the unique needs of the community. If there are differences between the plans, the community should follow the local plan. However, as federal and state guidance is release, amendments to the local plan may be issued. Those updates will be documented below to ensure the public has access to the most up-to-date guidance.

5/01/2020   The local plan was amended to remove guidance regarding faith-based organizations. The local plan now refers to the state’s guidance.
  Order of Knox County Health Department Allowing Knox County Businesses to Reopen While Encouraging Continued Adherence to Health Guidelines to Limit The Spread Of COVID-19
  Amendment to the Order issued April 30, 2020 from the Knox County Public Health Officer
5/22/2020  Phase Two Amendment

Questions about the local plan

  • Review the plan, download the PDF at the top of the webpage.
  • Call 3-1-1

Questions about your health

  • Call your health care provider.
  • Call Knox County Health Department’s Public Information Line at 865-215-5555 or toll-free at 888-288-6022. The information line is available from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 pm., Saturday and Sunday.