Nashville to begin economic reopening on Monday

FILE – In this April 27, 2020, file photo, a sign marks a table not to be used at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant in Franklin, Tenn. As more businesses like department stores and restaurants reopen, tensions are expected to rise even more between workers and customers at a time when labor groups say there hasn’t been enough training. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville will slowly begin reopening its economy next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Thursday.

Starting Monday, the city’s first of four reopening phases will allow dine-in restaurants, bars serving food, retail stores and commercial businesses to operate at 50% capacity. Workers will be required to undergo daily screenings and wear face masks. Bar areas will stay closed and live music will remain banned.

“The goal is to get us gently back to work while managing with the presence of the disease in our community,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said.

The first phase also continues to restrict gatherings to 10 or fewer people and calls for wearing masks in public.

Officials acknowledged an upward trend of new coronavirus cases over the past two weeks in Nashville, with clusters at homeless shelters and a meatpacking facility.

To advance to the next phase of reopening, Nashville officials want to see two weeks of appropriate health metrics, including a flat or decreasing trend.

Nashville-Davidson County and five other counties were allowed to reopen more slowly than the rest of the state, which started by allowing dine-in restaurants on April 27. Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Friday will allow the opening of small-group activities, from arcades to bowling alleys, in 89 of the state’s 95 counties.

Nashville and other metro areas will also be the focus of COVID-19 testing for residents of large public housing complexes, said Tennessee’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes. That’s in addition to statewide testing of all nursing home and assisted-living facility residents and staff, and all state prison inmates and staff.

In Memphis, officials said restaurants and shops on historic Beale Street were allowed to open to customers Thursday. Businesses must operate at only 50% capacity, and no live or DJ music will be allowed during business hours. Known for its blues music, Beale Street is an important tourist attraction in Memphis.

Meanwhile, state corrections officials say 580 out of 586 inmates at Bledsoe County Correctional Complex who tested positive for COVID-19 have finished 14 days of isolation without showing symptoms. Two of the others are hospitalized, and the final four have no symptoms and remain in isolation, the state Department of Correction said in a news release.

Tennessee officials on Thursday reported 14,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state since the outbreak began, including 237 deaths.