Amid controversy, Sevier County extends mask mandate again through Sept 30

Gatlinburg
The streets of downtown Gatlinburg (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

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On Friday evening, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters signed an executive order to extend the existing mask mandate through Sept. 30, 2020.

Waters originally announced a mask mandate for Sevier County on July 7, which was meant to run July 10-Aug. 3, 2020. The mandate was extended through Aug. 29, and now has been extended for a second time. 

“The State of Tennessee Department of Health urged local leaders to continue the face mask requirement given positive data results and overall reduction in the severity of the COVID-19 Pandemic [in] Sevier County,” the executive order states. 

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters and city officials gather around a masked Dolly Parton statue at the Sevier County Courthouse on Tuesday (photo courtesy of Leslie Ackerson/WBIR)
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters and city officials gather around a masked Dolly Parton statue at the Sevier County Courthouse on July 7 (photo courtesy of Leslie Ackerson/WBIR)

The mask controversy and the surrounding lawsuit

Masks have been controversial nationwide, and Sevier County is no exception. 

“It is not a political statement,” said Waters when the mask mandate first went into effect in July. “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 a recognition of any kind of politics.”

WBIR reported this week that the state of Tennessee is facing a lawsuit for allowing counties to require masks. 

The lawsuit revolves around Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to let counties issue orders surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly citing the ability to require the use of face coverings. 

Current cases of coronavirus in Sevier County 

According to the state health department as of Friday, in Sevier County there are currently: 

  • 2,211 confirmed and probable cases
  • 1,710 recoveries
  • 490 active cases
  • 79 hospitalizations
  • 11 deaths 

Since the first phase of the reopening, most places of business around the Smoky Mountains have been either partially or fully reopened. 

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set to begin their final phase of reopening on Sept. 3, with only two exemptions. 

The National Parks Service is asking visitors to be their partner in enjoying the park responsibly by avoiding congested areas, staying in vehicles while viewing wildlife and maintaining a physical distance from other visitors.  

Read More: Great Smoky Mountains National Park begins final phase of reopening Sept 3 

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.

Read More: Dollywood revises Splash Country mask policy, will have mask-free zones

2. When does this mandate end?

The mandate is now expected to last through Sept. 30.

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. 

If you are planning a trip to the Smokies, please remember to follow state and local guidelines. 

For more information about the pandemic, visit tn.gov or cdc.gov. For more information about data reporting, visit the FAQ page.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date info rmation, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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