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Earlier today, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters signed an executive order to extend the existing mask mandate through August 29.
Waters originally announced a mask mandate for Sevier County on July 7, which was meant to run July 10-Aug. 3, 2020.
“I am extending the mask mandate for the health and safety of the residents, employees and visitors of Sevier County,” said Waters, according to a press release from the county. “We are still collecting data from the tests performed during the original mandate, and I do not feel that we have enough information to end the order. The Sevier County School Administration also believes extending the mandate would be beneficial with regards to opening school later this month.”
Despite coronavirus concerns, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge remain popular tourist destinations, attracting large crowds of visitors each weekend.
The mask controversy in Sevier County
In that original announcement, the mayor addressed the controversy surrounding facial coverings.
“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.”
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 end?
The mandate and is now expected to last through August 29.
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.
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