Knox County releases guidance for Phase 2 of reopening plan


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Expanding gathering restrictions to 50 people, requiring a registration system at food service businesses when possible, reopening indoor leisure services and expanding the distance between patrons at gyms where masks aren’t being used are among the changes in the second phase of the Knoxville-Knox County Task Force reopening plan released Friday.

The Knox County Health Department released guidance for the second phase of the community reopening plan ahead of implementation on Tuesday.

In addition to the “General Guidelines for Everyone Throughout all Phases” outlined in the Knox County community reopening plan, most industries can operate in Phase 2 if they can maintain safety and health precautions.

“Especially in Phase 2, We took the approach of how can we help businesses open safely,” Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said. “We know that wearing a face-covering protects other people. So if both people are wearing a face covering, even if you’re close together, your risk is very low (to contract the virus).”

Phase 2 recommendations include:

  • Limiting social settings and gatherings to 50 people maximum. This increase from phase one doesn’t change the need to physically distance.
  • Continuing to encourage telework, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.
  • Implementing strict physical distancing protocols when possible.
  • Increasing services slowly, when possible, to give the business time to build and test safety protocols.
  • Limiting use of common areas where employees are likely to congregate and interact.
  • Considering special accommodations for higher-risk individuals.
  • Operating by walk-in registration, appointment or reservation when possible.

“Moving into Phase 2 is not a return to pre-pandemic normal, but it is a small step in helping us get there. We must not forget that this situation has caused almost-irreparable damage to the local economy, creating significant hardships for many families and placing a tremendous burden on small business owners. Only by working together and supporting one another can our community begin seeing ‘normal’ within reach.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs

Phase 2 recommends a continuation of the five core actions of the community reopening plan: physical distancing, wearing cloth face coverings, frequent and proper handwashing, cleaning surface and staying home if you’re sick or instructed to isolate/quarantine.

“If the business is abiding by the guidelines … and if your abiding by the guidelines, we believe that you can safely patronize that business keeping yourself safe and protecting the employees as well,” Buchanan said.

Food Service

As part of Phase 2, the foodservice category expands to include food truck parks, bars and all other business models that include food or beverage onsite consumption. The bar/counter section of establishments and self-service food must remain closed.

Foodservice businesses should operate by walk-in registration, appointment or reservation when possible.

A maximum of 10 people per table is recommended as part of Phase 2 guidance. Condiments must be single-serve, provided by request only and cannot be reused.

Hand sanitizer should be available at the entrance of foodservice establishment and/or where customers pick up their order, if applicable.

The guidance recommends businesses operating by walk-in registration, appointment or reservation collect a name and phone number of at least one member of a group of customers who have close contact with them.

As the community continues to reopen, there is greater risk for increased cases and clusters. Retaining this information will help with rapid notification to people who may have been exposed, helping to prevent future exposures among employees, patrons, family members, and others.

Knox County community reopening plan phase 2 recommendations


Patrons must wear face masks in gyms, fitness studios and similar facilities when at least 12 feet of physical distancing cannot be consistently maintained. Sanitation of surfaces and items between uses is recommended.

If patrons choose not to wear cloth face coverings, facilities must maximize space between these patrons to a minimum of 12 feet in all directions. Facilities may also choose to require patrons to wear cloth face coverings with a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing between patrons.

Require patrons to clean equipment they come in contact with using disinfecting wipes before and after each use.

Gyms should designate an entrance and separate clearly designated exit to support physical distancing.

Athletic Fields, skateparks outdoor recreation

Athletic fields courts and other athletic venues are available for single household use and for skill-building drills. Individual noncontact sporting competitions such as running or cycling can occur as long as they follow physical distancing, cloth face covering and limit of 50 people maximum.

Tennis and similar courts for single and doubles use only, skate parks, golf course and other low-interaction outdoor recreation spaces are open.

Communal items must be sanitized between users.

Indoor leisure facilities can reopen under Phase 2 guidance. With the exception of playgrounds, outdoor recreation spaces may open. Pools, splash pads and other water venues are also able to reopen.

Senior centers remain closed under Phase 2. Community centers and libraries may open and eight of the 19 Knox County Public Library branches will reopen Friday as part of Phase 2. 

The Knox County Health Department said it is deferring to the state guidelines on school athletic practices. Those guidelines are expected to be announced soon.

“We have let the science and data guide our response throughout this pandemic and it is reassuring that our benchmarks continue to look favorable here in Knox County. Dr. Martha Buchanan, the staff at the Knox County Health Department and the reopening task force members have done an outstanding job. They continue to make smart decisions that put the well-being of our community ahead of politics. I am optimistic that if everyone continues to follow the 5 core actions in the reopening plan, we can move forward without seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.”

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon

The Knox County Health Department will assess the status of Phase 2 on June 12 and will make potential recommendations at that time.

The full list of Phase 2 guidelines can be found below and on KCHD’s website.

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