Knox County businesses facing mask decision

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – For businesses, large and small, the last year has been all about adapting. At Lox Salon in the Old City, owner Brynn Crowell explained how their staff has gotten used to the extra cleaning, temperature checks, distancing, and even cutting around clients’ masks.

She also believes the added precautions have paid off. “We haven’t had anybody have Covid in our staff or with our clients. I think it has a lot to do with everybody wearing masks, and we’re washing our hands constantly. I think that’s really helped,” she said.

Tuesday, Governor Bill Lee ended most statewide public health orders and rescinded the authority given to county mayors, in 89 counties, to implement mask mandates. Lee urged the remaining six counties, including Knox, with independent health departments to drop existing mandates and regulations by the end of May.

“COVID-19 is now a managed public health issue. We’re in a different season. It’s time to shift our focus, now more toward recovery and not restrictions,” Lee said.

Hours later, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs announced the county mask mandate would expire at 12:01, leaving the decision to individual business owners/organizations.

“When I heard Governor Lee’s statement about lifting the mask mandate, I was immediately like ok, that’s fine for everybody else. I think it’s a little soon for Lox Salon, for the health of the community and of my staff, we’re going to keep the mask mandate,” Crowell said.

“We’ve definitely seen more people coming out because of getting vaccinated, which is great, our business is picking up. But, the idea of people coming in not wearing masks, and knowing that not even 50% of my staff is fully-vaccinated…we’ve been doing so good thus far. I definitely don’t want to see an outbreak and be the cause of it.”

Larger area retailers are opting to keep masks, too.

A statement from Food City’s President/CEO Steven C. Smith reads: “The safety of our dedicated team of associates and loyal customers is our top priority. Our associates work in close proximity to one another and our customers. To ensure the safety of all, we will continue to follow CDC guidelines with regard to wearing face coverings indoors. We strongly encourage our associates and customers to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, as this will help all of us get back to normalcy quicker. We will continue to monitor the situation throughout our market area and make modifications as needed to maintain compliance with CDC guidelines.”

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