NASHVILLE, TN (WLAF) – Today, Gov. Bill Lee issued the first steps from the “Tennessee Pledge,” the state’s rollout of guidance and best practices for Tennessee businesses in 89 of the state’s 95 counties to keep employees and customers safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The first industries to receive guidance through the plan include the restaurant and retail industries.

“Tennesseans pulled together to flatten the curve, and it is time for people to begin to get back to work and back to their businesses,” Lee said. “We are pursuing a careful, measured approach to reopening our economy that does not depend on heavy-handed mandates but instead provides practical tools for businesses of all sizes.”

Lee underscored the Tennessee Pledge plan for safe economic recovery is supported by data showing Tennessee’s curve of novel coronavirus infections hitting a plateau. Lee also pointed to the unsettling economic reality COVID-19 has created in our state. 

Tennessee has seen the average daily growth rate remain stable for 14 days, in addition to a steady downward trajectory in positive tests as a percentage of total tests since April 1. The state has also had a massive ramp up in testing, included open testing available to all Tennesseans across 33 sites over last weekend, 18 this weekend, and more the next.

On the economic front, 15 percent of Tennessee’s workforce filed unemployment claims as of this week – more than 400,000 people. State officials predict a $5 billion loss in the state’s gross domestic product during 2020.

Lee said today’s announcement is the first step in a phased reopening of the state’s economy, which entails rebooting industries as they are safe to pursue in 89 of the state’s 95 counties. The state is working with Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan on plans to reopen businesses in those counties. Lee added that many Tennesseans are facing not just potential sickness but crippling financial hardship, particularly in the service industries.

Lee announced Tennessee restaurants are able to reopen Monday at 50 percent occupancy. Additionally, Tennessee retailers are able to reopen on Wednesday at 50 percent occupancy. The state recommends that employees in both industries wear cloth face coverings and that business owners follow federal guidelines for hygiene and workplace sanitation standards related to the pandemic. The full guidance offered by the state for both sectors can be found here.

“Like the rest of the country, Tennessee has taken an unprecedented economic hit with families and small businesses feeling the most pain,” Lee said. “We must stay vigilant as a state, continue to practice social distancing, and engage in best practices at our businesses so that we can stay open.”

Lee’s administration assembled the Tennessee Economic Recovery Group, pulling together the state’s departments of tourism, economic development, and revenue, members of the Tennessee General Assembly, and business leaders to safely reboot Tennessee’s economy. The group is chaired by Tennessee Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell.

Ezell said the state’s guidelines for restaurants and retail stores were developed in cooperation with business leaders in both sectors, mayors from across the state, and members of the legislature and health experts, as well as Unified Command which includes the Tennessee Department of Health. He added the reopening of future sectors would be accomplished with similar input from industry leaders and elected officials.

“We need Tennessee businesses, workers, and consumers to step up and pledge to follow these guidelines,” Ezell said. “It is critically important that we maintain our commitment to social distancing and adhere to these new guidelines so that we can continue to reopen our economy.” 

Here is the latest guidance from Governor Lee for restaurants and retail stores.

The guidelines are divided into employee protection, consumer protection, and business process guidance. What follows is guidance for retail stores in the first section. The second section details restaurant guidelines. The last section is general business guidance.


Retail Employee Protection

1. Staff should wear face coverings (not N-95 or medical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers) and other personal protection items as recommended by the CDC.

2. Provide training on personal protective equipment based on CDC guidelines

3. Provide a sanitizing station such as a wash basin with soap and/or bottle of hand sanitizer

4. Stagger shifts, breaks, and meals, in compliance with wage and hour laws and regulations, to maintain social distancing

5.Provide regular updates and training for employees about personal COVID-19 mitigation and store safeguards based on CDC guidelines

6.Require all employees to report any illness to supervisor and require notification of COVID-19 positive case in employee’s household

7. Prohibit congregating in break rooms or common areas and limit capacity of such areas to allow for safe social distancing minimum of 6 feet whenever possible

Retail Consumer Protection

1. Limit the number of customers inside a store at a given time, excluding employees and representatives of third-party delivery companies, to 50 percent or less of store occupancy based on Tennessee’s Building and Fire Code

2. Customers should wear face coverings inside the store

3. Consider dedicate shopping hours or appointment times for the elderly, medically vulnerable, and health care workers

4. Establish one-way aisles and traffic patterns for social distancing

5. Increase curbside, pickup, and delivery service options to minimize contact and maintain social distancing

6. Assign dedicate staff to prompt customers regarding the importance of social distancing
Add social distancing “reminder” signs, personal stickers, floor decals, and audio announcements

Business Process Adaptations

1. Establish enhanced cleaning protocols that follow CDC guidelines including sanitizing shared resources (such as carts) after each use, and sanitizing all high traffic / high touch areas (such as counters check-out lanes, keypads, break rooms, dressing rooms, rest rooms) every two hours and when visibly dirty

2. Use a clearly designated entrance and a separate clearly designated exit to maintain social distancing

3. Use plastic shields or barriers between customers and clerks at service counters, and clean them frequently (every 2 hours and when visibly dirty)

4. Adjust store hours to allow time for enhanced cleaning

5. Prohibit the use of reusable bags (reusable bags may carry COVID-19)

6. Suspend the sampling of food and personal hygiene products

7. Task management-level employees within a store to monitor compliance


Restaurant Employee Protection

1. Follow sanitation frequency guidance contained in this document at all times

2. Have dedicated face coverings and dedicated gloves (i.e., only used by one person) worn by all employees, at all times
Should not be N-95 or medical variety – these should be saved for use by healthcare workers

3. Require all employees to report any symptoms of illness to supervisor and require notification of COVID-19 positive case in employee’s household

4. Provide ServSafe COVID-19 training for all food handlers as soon as possible

Restaurant Consumer Protection

1. Limit the number of customers in the restaurant to 50% of seating capacity

2. Tables should be spaced at least 6 feet apart

3. Limit tables to no more than 6 guests per table

4. Mark any indoor or outdoor waiting area so that social distancing standards are met (options can include a text system to alert guests of available seating, an intercom system, or only one member of a party being allowed to wait in the waiting area)

5. Bar areas should remain closed

6. Live music should not be permitted

7. Screen customers for illness upon their entry into the restaurant:

Best practice:

a. Temperature checks for every customer. Customers with temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should not be permitted on premise

b. Minimum: Question customers regarding COVID-19 symptoms:

(1) Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
(2) Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat?
(3) Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?

Business Process Adaptations

1. Place hand sanitizer stations in restaurant lobby and bathrooms, as well as at cashier stations

2. Sanitize all front-of-house contact surfaces including door handles, screens, phones, pens, keyboards and other areas of hand contact every two hours, at a minimum
Use menus that are disposable or sanitized between each use

3. Use rolled silverware/napkins stored in sealed bins (gloves should be used by staff while rolling silverware in designated sanitary areas)

4. Sanitize all tabletop items, including condiments, after each table turns (or use disposables)

5. Sanitize chairs, especially where contact occurs, after each table turns

6. Do not offer self-serve buffets, condiments on a counter for use by multiple tables, or beverage station re-use



1. Screen all employees reporting to work for COVID-19 symptoms with following questions:

(a) Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
(b) Are you experiencing a cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat?
(c) Have you had a fever in the last 48 hours?
(d) Have you had new loss of taste or smell?
(e) Have you had vomiting or diarrhea in the last 24 hours?

Temperature screening employees:

1. Best practice: employers to take temperatures on site with a no-touch thermometer each day upon arrival at work.
Minimum: Temperatures can be taken before arriving. Normal temperature should not exceed 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Direct any employee who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., answers yes to any of the screening questions or who is running a fever) to leave the premises immediately and seek medical care and/or COVID-19 testing, per CDC guidelines. Employers should maintain the confidentiality of employee health information.

3. Implement workplace cleaning and disinfection practices, according to CDC guidelines, with regular sanitization of high-touch surfaces at least every two hours

4. Mitigate exposure in the workplace by implementing social distancing guidelines and modify scheduling

5. Allow employees to work from home as much as possible

6. Plan for potential COVID-19 cases, and work with local health department officials when needed (e.g., monitor and trace COVID-19 cases, deep clean facilities)

5. Covered employers and employees should be aware of the provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which allows for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons, such as for self-quarantining or seeking a medical diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms

6. Update the Employee Illness Policy to include the symptoms of “COVID-19” or create a COVID-19 specific policy. All staff should sign the policy, and the policy should be posted for confirmation

7. Limit self-service options (customer samples, communal packaging, food/beverages, etc.)

8. Post extensive signage on health policies, including the following documents in the workplace to help educate building occupants on COVID-19 best practices.


1. Stay home when feeling ill, when exposed to COVID-19 (e.g., positive household member case), or if diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Employees who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the CDC (e.g., due to age or underlying conditions) are encouraged to stay home

2. Increase hygiene practices—wash hands more frequently, avoid touching face, practice good respiratory etiquette

3. Wear a cloth face covering (not an N-95 or medical mask, which should be reserved for healthcare workers) while at work and in public to help protect against the spread of the virus

4. Practice recommended social distancing to the greatest extent possible – “Further is safer”

5. Abide by guidelines established by employer, which may include the use of gloves, social distancing practices in the workplace, and increased sanitation

(WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 04/24/2020-12:30PM)