Day 1 done: Sevier County mask mandate keeps businesses open, tourists informed

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — After the first day of Sevier County’s mask mandate, under Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters’ Executive Order 23, businesses in the county opened with signs and reminders for customers: Mask up. 

The order to wear masks in indoor public spaces was announced Tuesday by Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters. The goal behind the mandate: To slow the spread of COVID-19 within Sevier County. 

Sevier County is providing businesses with free signs to print, available online, to ensure tourists and locals are educated on the rules. 

“This community cannot afford another shutdown. A lot of businesses didn’t make it through the first shutdown and if we were shutdown again there would be bankruptcies and ruin lives,” David Wear, Mayor of Pigeon Forge, said. 

Wear said the goal from county leaders is education, hopeful that if enough people wear masks not only will the spike in COVID-19 cases in Sevier County go down, but that others who aren’t wearing masks will start and follow suit. 

At The Island in Pigeon Forge, social distancing markers are on the ground and outdoor chairs are spaced 6-feet apart or further. According to the mandate, masks are not required outside if social distancing is possible. 

Inside the shops and restaurants at The Island, employees and guests are in masks. 

As part of the order, businesses are allowed to be more restrictive than the county and may refuse service if a guest is not wearing a mask or properly social distancing.

The phrase “No shoes, no shirt, no service” may be modified if a business owner chooses to include, “No mask, no service” if they see fit. 

The Island is also continuing cleaning efforts throughout the day and at the end of every day by sanitizing outdoor seating areas.

Enforcement: What does it look like?

Signs reminder guests in Sevier County masks are required.

According to a Sevier County spokesperson, education is the focus when it comes to businesses or individuals in noncompliance to the mask order.

Law enforcement with the cities and Sevier County have extra masks that are available to anyone without a mask.

Mayor Waters said he wants to focus on warnings that are educational. If an individual is not complying with the order, they will be asked if they are aware it exists and if they have any pre-existing medical conditions that would cause harm if they were to wear a mask, according to a county spokesperson.

There is no fine for businesses that do not comply with the order.

Executive Order 23 is set to run through Aug. 3.

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