Gentry confident as economic reopening continues after coronavirus lockdowns

8 Jun 2020

By Shane Duncan Staff Writer

As the economy begins to reopen and people begin to gather more after the recent coronavirus lockdowns, McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said he’s encouraged by the transition.

Gentry noted that the outbreak of the coronavirus at Life Care Center of Athens has caused the overall county number to grow considerably.

“Out of 146 people, only 47 are outside of Life Care,” said Gentry. “So 99 of 146 people are patients or staff ... 47 out of 146 are what you consider in the community outside of Life Care and 37 are recovered.”

He noted that he wasn’t sure how many of the 47 people may be related to staff workers from Life Care.

“You could have a bigger Life Care influence than just those employees and residents,” he said. “Overall, I think that with 57,000 to 58,000 people in the county having less than 50 in contact with the virus is exceptional.”
He believes people are ready to return to a sense of normalcy and hopes that the spread of the virus has diminished enough to not affect anyone’s daily life.

“We had a sizable tournament at our ball fields this last weekend at Bicentennial Park,” Gentry noted. “Those things have been allowed to restart since the governor has listed it as a non-contact sport.”

Preparations were still made to help mitigate any potential spread of the virus, he added.

“The organizer had sent us their policies. They are encouraging social distancing, they have moved some bleachers around to make sure people are spaced out, no shaking hands after the ball game, the concession stands are only selling individually wrapped foods, so they are taking precautions,” said Gentry.

He also stated that the teams were assigned items to bring in order to maintain a sanitary environment.

Business that were also affected by the virus have begun phased reopening, however the economic effectiveness of the reopening may not show for a few months.

“We won’t know until we get the sales tax reports and we’re always two months behind on that,” said Gentry. “After you have a month of activity, it is collected by the state where they get their share and then we get our share.”

He expects the sales tax report for the month of April to be a “rough month” because it was “the heart of the stay at home order.”

He believes what made the COVID-19 virus so scary was the fear of the unknown.

“We had illnesses before, this was just an unknown. When you had something going across the world and you were hearing reports of so many deaths and respirator shortages as well as what it could do to overwhelm a local health care system it just pushed people to be extra cautious,” Gentry said. “I think people are saying that we need to move forward because maybe the cure was worse than the disease ... it has been difficult for everyone, but I think you have seen people ‘voting with their feet’ and they are getting out and enjoying people again.”