County/city mayors: Success of phase two will depend on public cooperation

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon both agree, local COVID-19 statistics support phase two of reopening county businesses.

Wednesday, Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan announced the next phase will begin next Tuesday, three days ahead of schedule. It allows many businesses to reopen, and people to gather in groups of fewer than 50.

Mayor Jacobs has long maintained a desire for a quicker reopening, that’s more in sync with the state’s reopening timeline.

“When you’re a small business person, I’m a small business person, time is money. So, even a few days can have a detrimental impact,” Jacobs added.

He sees phase two as a step in the right direction. “When people are wealthier, they’re healthier. The way you have wealthier people, you have a healthy economy,” he said.

The original reopening strategy called for a 28-day period between phases, for evaluation, but Buchanan also announced Wednesday, the period will be scaled back to 14-days. This, Jacobs sees, helps prevent putting the county at a disadvantage.

“If we see businesses open up in other counties, people in Knox County are going to go there and we’re going to lose business in Knox County,” he said.

Eighty-nine other Tennessee counties are on a timeline for reopening set by Gov. Bill Lee.

Mayor Kincannon has supported the timeline set by the health department, prior to the Wednesday announcement. She even wrote in a recent news release, “there is no prize for going fast when it comes to reopening our economy.” Wednesday, Kincannon said the numbers support phase two.

She also highlighted the importance of continuing to follow the big five: hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask, cleaning surfaces, and staying home when sick.

“Our health, our personal, physical, health is very much fundamental to our economic well-being,” Kincannon said.

Jacobs also highlighted the importance of the public taking the threat coronavirus seriously, so the coronavirus statistics still favor reopening. “We have to figure out a way to get back to normal as much as possible. The way that we’re going to do that is making sure it doesn’t have a huge impact on our community. All of us, individually, can help with that,” he said.

Kincannon acknowledged the pandemic has brought about some toxic conversations, but above all, she mentioned the good she’s seen throughout the last couple of months. “The more we can build those bridges, learn from each other, and work together, the more we’re going to be able to thrive, even as we wait for a vaccine for a more permanent solution.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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