Knox County Board of Health passes 10-person social gathering limit


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A 10-person social gathering limit will go into effect this Friday in Knox County.

That is what the Board of Health decided at its meeting Wednesday night. The move comes as health leaders say the COVID-19 situation is worsening in Knox County.

Social Gathering Limitation Regulation

The Board of Health voted 7-3 in favor of passing a new COVID-19 Social Gathering Limitation Regulation.

Dr. Jack Gotcher, Dr. Patrick O’Brien and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs voted in opposition.

The decision came after discussion among board members about whether to keep the order a regulation, or to make it a recommendation.

“Just tell people they need to be ready for what’s coming and they need to have that individual liberty to act responsibly right now. That’s what we need,” said Dr. O’Brien.

“The time to act to try to have an impact on what happens after the post-Thanksgiving spike is now,” said Dr. James Shamiyeh.

Per the regulation, all public or private gatherings of more than 10 people age 12 or older indoors, within the same 360 square feet space, are prohibited. This does not include people who live in the same household.

It would not be considered a violation of the regulation if the people in the group indoors are at least six feet from each other.

Further, the regulation states that all public or private gatherings of more than 10 people age 12 or older outdoors, within the same 360 square feet space, are prohibited – if that 360-square-foot area is entirely or partially within 30 feet of any restaurant, club, or business allowing on-site alcohol consumption.

Again, it would not be consideration a violation of the regulation if the people in the group outdoors are at least six feet from each other.

Exceptions to the regulation include nursing homes, places of worship, weddings, funerals, private dwelling places or residences, public and private schools, and gatherings intended to provide therapeutic support for those suffering from mental illness or addiction.

The COVID-19 Social Gathering Limitation Regulation goes into effect Friday, December 4. It will last at least 4 weeks, until January 1.

Knox County’s COVID-19 Situation

Health Director Dr. Martha Buchanan gave a Health Department Benchmark Presentation.

For the first time, all five benchmarks that gauge Knox County’s ability to manage an increase in COVID-19 cases while preventing transmission growth are in the red.

The Five Knox County Benchmarks:

  1. Sustained reduction or stability in new cases for 14 days.
  2. Community-wide sustained and increased diagnostic testing with consistent or decreased test result reporting turnaround time.
  3. Sustained or increased public health capability.
  4. Health care system capabilities remain within current and forecasted surge capacity.
  5. Sustained or decreased COVID-19 related death rate for identified positive or probable cases.

“I think the sobering data is really the fatalities that have occurred. Our case numbers are really high, but our fatalities certainly are matching up,” Dr. Buchanan said.

Knox County COVID-19 Mobility Data

Data analyst Keith Britt joined the Board of Health’s call to present mobility data.

A summary slide from Britt’s presentation listed the following four points:

-Good evidence that previous two surges were triggered by Memorial Day and Labor Day mobility anomalies, the former exacerbated by an Independence Day mobility anomaly

-Same surge mobility signature detected on November 26th and 26th

-Current surge ostensibly driven by seasonal temperatures

-Unprecedented surge multiplier expected to begin in a matter of days

“Honestly cannot tell you how big the surge we’re about to experience is going to be, I don’t know how bad it’s going to be, I don’t know how big it’s going to be. All I can say is that it’s very likely that we are going to have a surge based on all the observational data we have so far,” Britt said.

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