Tennessee to lift capacity restrictions on retail and restaurants, allow large attractions to open

Local Coronavirus Coverage

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group announced Friday that it will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and retail effective May 22 and will issue guidelines for allowing large, non-contact attractions to reopen on or after May 22.

The group said it will shift its focus to social distancing best practices and will issue new Tennessee Pledge guidelines early next week.

Six counties — Sullivan, Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, and Knox — will continue to follow their individual, county-specific reopening plans.

The new guidance for large attractions will apply to businesses that can effectively practice social distancing and implement measures to protect employees and customers. This includes racetracks, amusement parks, water parks, and theaters.

“Tennesseans have worked incredibly hard to do their part and help slow the spread of COVID-19 so that our state can begin to reopen. Thanks to their continued efforts, we’re able to allow restaurants and retail businesses to operate at greater capacity and large attractions to open in a safe and thoughtful way,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Our state continues to see downward trends in case growth and meets the White House criteria for a phased reopening. This progress has been hard-won, and we can build upon it by reopening while also maintaining common-sense safety measures like mask-wearing and good hygiene. By taking the Tennessee Pledge, our businesses can reopen in a way that protects the health of their customers and employees, and protects the livelihoods of hard-working Tennesseans.”

The White House criteria includes:


  • Downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) reported within a 14-day period; AND
  • Downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic (CLI) cases reported within a 14-day period


  • Downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period; OR
  • Downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)


  • Treat all patients without crisis care; AND
  • Robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing

Updates to restaurant guidance will include a lift on capacity restrictions and allowing for increased service as long as social distancing guidelines are followed, which includes six feet between tables. The governor’s office says restrictions on social gatherings of more than 10 people remain in place for the time being.

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