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Roundup: State Restrictions Lift Next Week; UT Plans for Autumn


Lee won’t extend “Safer at Home,” plans for phased re-opening of businesses

Gov. Bill Lee on Monday confirmed what had been hinted in his briefings last week: April 30 will be the end of his “safer at home” order.

A press release from Lee’s office said a “vast majority of businesses” in 89 Tennessee counties will be allowed to re-open on Friday, May 1, but some businesses could begin re-opening as early as April 27.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, who has frequently expressed his concerns about the economic effects of COVID mitigation measures, said the decision makes sense. Knox is one of six Tennessee counties that will devise its own re-opening plan.

“I agree with Gov. Lee’s decision to end the Safer at Home Order…and am pleased he has said that some businesses will be able to open as early as next Monday,” Jacobs said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the State to develop a plan for Knox County that gets people back to work as safely and quickly as possible.”

Health experts have been less bullish on the late April-early May target dates, even as political enthusiasm for the re-start proposal built up last week. They have warned that slack adherence to physical distancing rules could lead to an increase in cases.

Lee echoed the cautious note in his remarks Monday, saying “Social distancing works, and as we open up our economy it will be more important than ever that we keep social distancing as lives and livelihoods depend on it.”

Whether people will consistently follow recommendations to wear facial masks and keep a six-foot distance from other people is unknown.

RAM shifts gears to help fight COVID-19

Though its regular free clinics are canceled, Remote Area Medical says it’s shifting to offer some of services via telehealth.

The Rockford-based nonprofit medical care provider says it’s recruiting medical personnel to serve the telehealth effort set to launch this week.

RAM says it has also collaborated with manufacturing company DENSO in Maryville to deliver face shields to healthcare workers in Tennessee and Kentucky. That included 30,000 face shields last week alone. RAM's veterinary team is working with the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley and Young-Williams Animal Center to serve Knoxville-area pets of families impacted by COVID-19, according to a press release.

Remote Area Medical is best known for its free pop-up clinics that offer basic medical checkups, dental and vision exams to low-income people across Appalachia.

UT appoints committee to figure out how to re-open campus

A seventeen-member panel will create recommendations intended to guide the University of Tennessee’s flagship campus in Knoxville into the autumn semester.

The main goal is figuring out how to re-open the campus to students, faculty, staff and visitors while minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19, the university said.

“This has been a difficult experience, and we don’t want to lose the opportunity to re-imagine our campus given what we have been through and what we have learned,” Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman said. “How we come out of this experience will define our future as an institution for years, if not decades, to come.”

UT canceled in-person classes in March, and has said learning will remain online through the summer semester.