KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs says he will not issue any new COVID restrictions under any circumstance. The message comes as case counts go back up.

“There’s just been a lot of talks now with the Delta variant of more restrictions and mandates. We’re not going to do that in Knox County,” Jacobs said. “About 75 percent of the economic activity across the country actually dropped before states started lockdowns, so people will naturally respond. So when I say under any circumstances, I just want to make it clear that this is my stand. To the extent that I can, I will not issue any of those orders or mandates.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Knox County Board of Health was the body charged with putting regulations in place, including the county’s mask mandate, bar, and restaurant curfews, and social gathering limit. But earlier this year, County Commission voted to strip the board of its regulating power.

“The Board of Health is now advisory. But if the governor were to issue whatever executive order, he could say that the health department could do that, and a lot of that would depend on how the state reacts to this, I believe,” Jacobs said.

The conversation comes amid growing COVID-19 case counts nationwide and in Tennessee.

Just last week, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said, “You heard Dr. Walensky with the CDC say in the last several days that this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and that is also our experience here in Tennessee. About 97 percent of all of our hospitalizations and 98 plus percent of all of our deaths are amongst the unvaccinated.”

We asked Jacobs if he agrees with the medical experts that say the vaccines are the way out of the pandemic. “I think the vaccines are a personal choice though. But yes, I think especially for folks who are vulnerable,” he said.

The Knox County Health Department provided the following statement Monday afternoon:

We agree with the Mayor that the path forward is through vaccination. Offering the COVID-19 vaccine and providing education so our community members can make informed decisions about receiving the vaccine is the best course of action towards ending this pandemic. The vaccine is the best, most effective tool in our toolbox, and we will continue to work with our community partners to make the vaccine available to all of those who want it. Increasing our vaccine uptake is the best way forward.

Knox County Health Department

Knox County’s Advisory Board of Health is set to meet Wednesday at 5:30.