UPDATE: Thurs, Sept. 9

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – More than half of the counties in East Tennessee have been rated by the Centers for Disease Control to have a high COVID-19 Community Level, meaning face mask usage while indoors is recommended in a majority of the region.

The CDC divides every county in the U.S. into three categories of COVID-19 risk, high, medium and low, by evaluating hospital beds used, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. As of Sept. 7, 16 of the 26 East Tennessee counties are rated ‘high’ while the remaining 10 are considered ‘medium.’

High-quality masks or respirators are recommended by the CDC in areas with a high COVID-19 community level. High-risk individuals are advised to consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public.

In medium COVID-19 community level areas, those who are immunocompromised or at a high risk for severe illness are advised to wear a mask or respirator when indoors in public. The CDC also advises those who come into contact with someone at a high risk for getting sick, either in their household or through social contact, to consider self-testing before contact and consider wearing a high-quality mask when indoors with them.

East Tennessee counties with a ‘high’ COVID-19 Community Level

  • Blount
  • Carter
  • Claiborne
  • Grainger
  • Hamblen
  • Hancock
  • Hawkins
  • Jefferson
  • Knox
  • Loudon
  • Monroe
  • Sevier
  • Sullivan
  • Unicoi
  • Union
  • Washington

East Tennessee counties with a ‘medium’ COVID-19 Community Level

  • Anderson
  • Campbell
  • Cocke
  • Cumberland
  • Fentress
  • Greene
  • Johnson
  • Morgan
  • Roane
  • Scott

Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently reinstated a requirement of face masks inside all park buildings regardless of vaccination status based on high COVID-19 levels in Tennessee counties within the park.

Two counties in Tennessee, Chester and Trousdale, currently have a COVID-19 community level rating of ‘low.’

New CDC guidelines released in August removed the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person and also said people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

It also relaxed the recommendation that schools do daily routine daily testing, though the practice could be reinstated in certain situations during a surge of infections. The “test-to-stay” recommendation that students exposed to COVID-19 could test regularly instead of quarantining at home was also dropped.