Gatlinburg urges residents, visitors to practice social distancing when watching July 4th fireworks show

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — As Gatlinburg prepares for its Fourth of July celebration, city officials are asking visitors and residents to practice the COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Sevier County was considered a hot spot in the state, after several days of above average increasing number in positive COVID-19 cases.

Within the first three days of July, 111 tests results came back positive.

The number of increasing cases though didn’t deter tourists from visiting the county, which worried some residents.

Greg Snider lives in Pigeon Forge and he said that ever since the area reopened to tourists, the visitors haven’t been following safety guidelines, like wearing a mask or social distancing.

“It’s just a normal summer. Nothing’s changed. And so far as how I feel, I’m terrified to leave the house. It’s a death sentence for me and the tourists don’t care,” Snider said.

Snider said he believed apathy was the country’s worst problem amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“You know just respect the people that live here, respect the people that work here. Practice social distancing, be kind to the person next to you and respect their space. That’s all you gotta do to stop the spread of this,” Snider said.

Snider said he understands why cities are not canceling firework shows for Independence Day, but thought the cities and counties as a whole needed to do a better job at enforcing visitors and businesses to practice the guidelines.

Although Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg canceled their usual Fourth of July festivities, their firework shows will go on.

Marci Claude, public relations manager for the city of Gatlinburg, said that one reason why they canceled their midnight parade this year was because it would encourage people to crowd together.

She said that with the central location of the fireworks display, visitors should be able to watch the show from their cabins or rooms, or even while parked in their vehicle.

“The fireworks will go off on the top of the space needle. It is 407 feet tall above the city and so fireworks should be visible from everywhere across town,” Claude said.

Claude also said the city has posted signs across Gatlinburg reminding visitors to practice the safety guidelines.

The city also posted the guidelines on their social media pages, website and visitor’s page.

“As a vacation destination, we would like our visitors to come prepared to mask up if they find themselves in a situation where it is difficult to practice social distancing,” Claude said.

Visitors and residents will also be able to live stream the firework show, which is another way to socially distant, according to Claude.

“The fireworks will be broadcasted live on WATE and the Nexstar Network, stations across the country. It will be 11 p.m., for and the show is about 10 minutes long so you can watch it that way. You can also watch it on Facebook Live. The Gatlinburg Skylift will be broadcasting the fireworks live on Facebook and so will Visit Gatlinburg,” Claude said.

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