Opinions mixed as Tennessee Pledge, mask mandates end

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– The state of Tennessee could look a little more normal, pre-coronavirus normal, as COVID-19 restrictions are set to expire by the end of Tuesday.

Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee announced he was issuing Executive Order No. 80, which ends the authority to issue mask requirements in the 89 counties directed by the state health department.

It will go into effect Wednesday at 12:01 a.m.

Then, a few hours later, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs announced the county’s mask mandate would sunset Tuesday night.

Knox County was the last East Tennessee county with a mask mandate still in effect. After hearing the news, residents in downtown Knoxville had mixed feelings.

“I think it’s very irresponsible. As of right now, in this situation that we’re in, it is very irresponsible,” Jackie Maguire, a health care worker in Knoxville, said.

As a health care worker, Maguire knows first hand how the pandemic impacts the community, and why the COVID-10 precautions were important.

“We know that the COVID strain shifted. It’s mutating. We don’t know the full effects of the vaccine at this point,” Maguire said.

Maguire pointed out not everyone has had the vaccine either, which is another reason she believed leaders should have waited to life the restrictions.

Not all felt that way, though.

Jennifer Koesler, a Knoxville resident who lives in a community with more at-risk people, said the COVID-19 guidelines were good at first.

But now, she said, she’s glad it’s personal choice.

“It should be at everybody’s own discretion. Like, it shouldn’t be mandatory,” Koesler said.

She said she was ready to see come changes after the restrictions are no longer in place.

“I live in a building where there’s a lot of elderly and we still can’t have our community room open, so hopefully with the restrictions lifted, we’ll be able to have our community room and we’ll be able to have bingo,” Koesler said.

Koesler said she will continue to follow some guidelines and hopes others do as well. Specifically, if people are sick, she hopes they stay home or wear a mask.

But, like Maguire, Alexis Hornbuckle, a former women’s Vol basketball player, thought it was too soon.

“I just think personally that’s a smart decision. The virus is still out here. It’s well and alive. They’re dealing with a lot of things, you know, overseas, a lot more cases happening. The same thing could potentially happen to us,” Hornbuckle said.

Both Hornbuckle and Maguire said now that mask mandates are no more, at least on the government’s end, they will make sure they take their own precautions.

“Hand sanitizing, mask whenever you’re in public, maybe not outside, but definitely in enclosed spaces with more than 5, 10 people,” Maguire said.

“Yeah I will, just because, I mean I have asthma. I’ve had my first shot and I’ll have my second vaccine shot May 3rd. But, in the meantime, I’m going to continue to wear my mask in businesses, outside of obviously eating and drinking,” Hornbuckle said.

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