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Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters and city officials gathered around a masked Dolly Parton statue at the Sevier County Courthouse on Tuesday to answer the question we’ve all been asking: Will masks be required in Sevier County?
“We are getting ready to do something that I don’t believe one of us that have been involved in this decision are happy about, but it’s something we feel like is necessary unfortunately,” said Mayor Waters.
“So far we have done everything we can – our numbers have been going up, but we have been continuing to meet and continue to take action to try to mitigate the spread.”
There are currently around 372 active cases of coronavirus in Sevier County.
“You all know that on Friday, the governor put down an order in which he allowed county mayors to make the decision concerning mandating masks in a particular county. I know I wasn’t glad about that order because it certainly puts a lot of pressure on myself… as well as city and tourism officials,” the mayor continued.
“Having said that, what I am getting ready to do is certainly something I don’t take lightly.”
The mayor also addressed the controversy surrounding this decision.
“It is controversial. It is probably a 50/50 proposition… 50% of the people are going to support wearing masks and 50% of the people are going to oppose it. It’s never a good thing when you have a community split like that,” said the Mayor.
“It is is not a political statement. Unfortunately a lot of times this has become a political statement. Sevier County is a conservative county and it continues to be so. It is not in anyway recognition of any kind of politics.”
“We’ve been consulting with healthcare officials for the past several days and finally we have determined that ordering a face covering mandate is in the interest of Sevier County.”
The Mayor cited the health and safety of Sevier County’s residents, employees and visitors as being one of the primary reasons for the mandate.
He also said that he believes this action may prevent additional interruption or shut down of local businesses.
“I don’t think we can afford another shut down, and we are certainly going to do anything we can to prevent that,” said Waters.
“Masks are to be worn in publicly accessible indoor areas of commercial and public business establishments where social distancing is not possible. It is not mandated masks be worn outside.”
Your mask mandate questions answered
1. Where will masks be required?
Masks will be required in publicly accessible indoor areas of commercial and public business establishments where social distancing is not possible. It has not been mandated that masks be worn while outside. Unless of course the specific outdoor attraction requires it – like Dollywood, for instance.
2. When does this mandate begin?
The mask mandate begins Friday morning at 12:01 am.
3. When does this mandate end?
The mandate and is expected to last through August 3, when the Mayor’s order expires.
4. How will this mandate be enforced?
Individuals refusing to wear a mask indoors will receive a warning.
5. Who is exempt from this mandate?
There are several exemptions in place for this mandate. The mask mandate will not apply under the following conditions:
- Within a private residence or motor vehicle unless transporting others for hire
- By a child 12 years of age or younger
- By someone who has trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition or a bona fide medical or health related reason
- By someone with conditions or disabilities that prevent them from wearing a face covering
- While actively eating or drinking
- While outdoors
- By someone who is incapacitated and unable to remove the face covering without assistance
- While participating in indoor athletic events or exercise
- While working at location of employment
- In situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk
- While in a house of worship
It is also notable that the Sevier County School System is also exempt from this order and will form its own reopening guidelines when the time comes.
Private businesses may choose to implement stricter guidelines, such as requiring face coverings outdoors or on private property.
The Mayor ended the press conference by saying that the county will continue monitoring the spread of COVID-19 to determine whether or not the mandate is making a difference in the coming weeks.
“We believe and hope that most of the people are going to adhere to this … we believe that our citizens and our businesses will make an extra effort to adhere to this so we are confident that this is going to make enough of a difference to be able to determine working with the health department whether or not these statistics indicate whether or not it will work and we are hoping it will.”
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