The mayor has moved to require the closure of inside eating at restaurants, to close bars, gyms and event venues. She expressed concern regarding returning spring break vacationers. This on a day when the state announced there are now 228 confirmed cases in the state (about a week ago it was less than 20) and Knox County (where numbers seem to be in question) is between 3 and 6.
Here is the mayor’s statement issued this afternoon on the heels of the statement from the county:
MAYOR KINCANNON ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER CLOSING RESTAURANTS, BARS, GYMS AND COMMERCIAL EVENT VENUES
Mayor Indya Kincannon issued an executive order Friday, March 20, 2020 to close restaurants, bars, gyms and commercial event venues amid growing concerns over COVID-19. The order will allow restaurants and bars to offer delivery and take-out . Mayor Kincannon said, “Many people in our community will be returning from spring break trips to areas with community spread of COVID-19. I feel it is my responsibility to take all the preventative measures possible to reduce the health impacts in the City of Knoxville.”
Mayor Kincannon applauds the steps taken today by the Knox County Health Department, which apply across the County. The Mayor added, “I did not make this decision lightly, but it was clear this was necessary for the City after careful consultation with area leaders, businesses and health experts.” Among those consulted were former Governor Bill Haslam who said, “I think Mayor Kincannon is wise to continue to take steps to lessen the impact of this virus. While some of these efforts may be painful in the short term, we will all benefit in the long run from staying home and doing our part.”
Dr. Kathleen C. Brown, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor and Director of the UTK MPH Program in the Department of Public Health, and Dr. Marcy Souza, DVM, MPH, and Professor at the UTK Department of Public Health and College of Veterinary Medicine, agree with these proactive measures. The doctors said, “We support the actions of Mayor Kincannon to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The CDC had recommended keeping any gatherings to less than 10 people because of the high transmissibility and large numbers of individuals with mild or no symptoms. Converting restaurants to take-out only and temporarily closing bars and gyms will help achieve this directive. This action will serve the greater good of our community as we deal with this unprecedented pandemic.”
Support also comes from UTK Chancellor Donde Plowman who said this morning, “I am thankful for the Mayor’s leadership on this and am completely supportive of these measures. I urge UT students to stay home, commit to social distancing, and keep themselves and our larger community healthy.”
The YMCA of East Tennessee also backs this decision. YMCA President Jim Dickson said, ““I think the Mayor’s choice to close gyms is a smart step to contain any chance of spreading the virus. Especially with the people coming back from spring break this weekend. The YMCA will continue to provide emergency childcare for our current families, medical staff, first responders and work with other community agencies to efficiently serve our community through this crisis.”
The City of Knoxville will be designating metered parking spaces in front of restaurants and relaxing meter enforcement to help expedite pick-up service for restaurants and bars. The Mayor also encourages small businesses impacted by COVID-19 to tap into the resources and guidance being offered by the Small Business Administration and the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce.
This executive order will go into effect tonight at 8 p.m. and will remain in effect for 2 weeks.