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On Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 29, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters signed Executive Order 55 to extend the existing mask mandate once again through Feb. 27, 2021.
Waters originally announced a mask mandate for Sevier County on July 7, which was meant to run July 10-Aug. 3, 2020. The mandate has been extended each month since that original announcement and is expected to continue until COVID-19 cases are on the steady decline or vaccinations are made widely available to the general public.
Sevier County encompasses Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Mayor Waters addressed the polarizing nature of the debate surrounding masks when making the original announcement over the summer.
“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,” said Waters. “We’ve been consulting with healthcare officials … we have determined that ordering a face covering mandate is in the interest of Sevier County.”
How mask mandates are impacting Sevier County’s health and economy
According to a previous extension, featured in Executive Order No. 39, it is believed that mask compliance resulted in reductions of case counts and positivity rates last summer.
The mandate also indicated that this reduction allowed Sevier County to reopen safely while recovering a significant amount of tourism revenue.
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 a specific outdoor attraction requires it.
The executive order states that when a person is alone or properly socially distanced (or only with family or household members in indoor spaces), there is no requirement to wear a mask unless the local business requires it.
The requirement is meant for individuals to wear a mask when social distancing from other individuals is not possible.
2. When does this mandate end?
The mandate is now expected to last through at least Feb. 27 but will likely be extended until vaccines are made more widely available to the general public.
3. How will this mandate be enforced?
Individuals refusing to wear a mask indoors will receive a warning.
4. 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 a location of employment
- In situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk
- While in a house of worship
Private businesses may choose to implement stricter guidelines, such as requiring face coverings outdoors or on private property.
Current cases of coronavirus in Sevier County
According to the Sevier County website, as of Jan. 2, 2021, in Sevier County there are currently:
- 9,180 confirmed and probable cases
- 7,924 recoveries
- 1,183 active cases
- 177 hospitalizations
- 73 deaths
Since the first phase of the reopening, most places of business around the Smoky Mountains have been either partially or fully reopened.
Businesses are being asked to post signs asking visitors to wear masks inside. Signs have been made available for download on the Sevier County website.
If you are planning a trip to the Smokies, please remember to follow state and local guidelines.
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