HAMBLEN COUNTY, Tenn. — Hamblen County is one of many counties ready to reopen in Tennessee, going hand in hand with Governor Bill Lee's plan to reopen by May 1.
Overall, the county has eight confirmed cases. County leaders formed an economic recovery committee last week with reopening the economy the first item on their todo list, starting next week.
"Being East Tennesseans, we don't like people telling us what to do," said Hamblen County Mayor, Bill Brittain, who is taking the lead in reopening. "We need to have an approach that fits our economy. Whether it's a new normal or whatever it looks like we're ready to get back to business."
To do it, he formed an economic recovery committee made up of local leaders under a task force that kept people informed about COVID-19. He said that it's important for rural areas to be represented during the reopening process, just as much as urban areas.
Brittain said they're looking at Knox County's phased reopening plan for suggestions.
"We want to feed off their ideas and not recreate the wheel," he said.
Though like many, he has concerns.
"One is childcare. With the schools closed for employees to report to work, they're gonna have to have child care," he said.
Brittain said Hamblen County Schools will reopen extended school programs on May 4 to help employees.
He also said he is worried about companies having enough supplies, such as gloves and face masks.
"First we'll point them to local supplies then elsewhere if needed," said Brittain.
A reopening plan will come with continuing practices, while also making sure not to go back to old ways.
"We keep the distance, we keep strong hygiene practices," said Brittain. "Market to the region we are open for business. Continue to know the virus is out there and we try to prevent the spread."
The county is considering giving tool kits to businesses with recommendations of how they can reopen, along with information from the CDC and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.