COVID update, 2020 forecast

Hey all – the news is fairly discouraging with the rapid increase of COVID19 cases from around the nation, with Florida and Texas in particular looking particularly ugly. Restaurants and bars in particular are being closed again, and are cited as the sources of the recent surge. That’s disappointing on a number of fronts, and clarifies that 2020 is not going to get better during the second half.

We have put a lot of thought into the operation of our Markets, the safety of you, my staff and our customers, and the balance between the health/economic needs of our community. It doesn’t make any sense to close everything down again – I believe our approach with the smaller market format is about as safe and effective as we can make them. The Health Department voiced a similar perspective, and we’re going to continue to implement “best practices” to keep the Market the safe place to shop.

My forecast for the remainder of 2020:

  • our “essentials format” will continue, with restricted capacities and hours
  • River will remain the primary arts/crafts market, targeting the regional tourists
  • face masks, frequently hand washing, temperature checks and other protocols to continue
  • limited onsite food & beverage, limited music and likely no festivals this year
  • Oktoberfest seems unlikely at this point.

I do have a few musical acts schedule for July at Chattanooga (Independence Day needs to be celebrated!), but the format is significantly smaller and we won’t be setting out chairs/tables. River will continue to have music as part of our programming partnership with the Aquarium.

Holiday Market is expected to operate relatively normally - we’ll be rolling out those details in the next week. Our crowds are generally lighter/manageable, social distancing is not difficult and the air volume in that facility is massive – we might even have some live music. Santa may need to take the year off, but I see no reason why the shopping experience can not continue as planned.

We’re hoping to see a vaccine in early 2021 – that’s what is really needed to break this cycle. All of our Markets are expected to reopen next year, and we might even try to get a few back online earlier. I’m willing to open Collegedale (indoors, with the wood fire going) in January to farms/foods, if there is sufficient vendor interest. We normally open around Valentine’s Day.

Bottom line: plan for things staying mostly as they are for the remainder of 2020, and protect yourself/family as best you can. Wear your face mask when in public, and wash your hands! Finally, if you feel unwell or are running a fever – please don’t attend until you get an all-clear test result. This is not a year to mess with, and our objective is to simply survive it for the better years ahead.

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