SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Eighty-nine county mayors in Tennessee must decide whether to keep mask mandates, if they had them implemented, or get rid of them. Sevier County opted to extend its current mask mandate late Wednesday night.
Gov. Bill Lee issued executive order 63 Tuesday, which lifts several COVID-19 safety restrictions for businesses, such as max capacity.
The order also allows counties without a state-ran health department to choose how to proceed with mask mandates.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said he was out of town Wednesday afternoon and hadn’t made a decision yet, but said one would come soon.
On Wednesday night, his office released the following statement, extending the mask mandate:
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters today signed Executive Order 39, extending the current, county-wide, face-covering mandate through Oct. 30. The order is on www.seviercountytn.org
“The mandate appears to have been effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Sevier County,” said Waters. “Therefore, I am extending the executive order through Oct. 30. Barring a significant increase in cases between now and then, I intend to allow the order to expire on Oct. 30. We will continue to monitor the data and urge our businesses and citizens to follow the Tennessee Pledge.”
“October is one of Sevier County’s busiest months. We want to keep our community as healthy as possible, and we believe that continuing the mask mandate will help us achieve that goal.”
“We are thankful that our tourism numbers since the shutdown have exceeded expectations. I appreciate our business community, employees, citizens, and visitors following the mandate. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, the county’s daily positivity rate decreased approximately 8.5% and average daily cases dropped from a high of 40 to 14 during the previous mandates. Our community continues to work together to fight this pandemic, resulting in no additional business restrictions or closures imposed by the state,” Waters added.
Assistant County Mayor for Governmental Affairs
Tony Gore, owner of Tony Gore’s Smoky Mountain BBQ and Grill, said he was glad the restrictions were loosening up.
His restaurant had to undergo a lot of changes in order to follow COVID-19 related rules.
When restaurants could only serve to-go, he figured out how to do so.
When they were allowed to sit inside, but at a limited capacity, he changed out how his food was served.
“My restaurant only seats 80, 85-86 people. So when you cut that in half and we can only seat every other table, then you think, ‘well you sit 40-something people,'” Gore said.
He said they at first ended up being able to seat about 20 people.
If a four-person table only had two people sitting at it, those were two seats he wouldn’t be able to fill.
“That’s how I kind of came up with the idea for the outside seating out here in the sun with the umbrellas,” Gore said.
Gore said he had only a few tables outside when he first opened.
He said one day on his way to work, he heard someone on the radio saying sunlight fights COVID-19, so it’s better people are in the sun.
Gore decided to pull out the tables from under the patio for customers to sit at.
He eventually added more tables underneath the patio and out in the parking lot with umbrellas.
“Everybody loves that. Those tables stayed full all the time. So I had to go get more tables to put underneath the porch, so now I have doubled my seating from seating on the patio, and the porch and the restaurant,” Gore said.
With the capacity restrictions lifted, Gore said he plans to keep the patio tables outside as is and add tables back inside.
He said he would like Waters to end the mask mandate.
“Me personally, I don’t like wearing them and I can’t, I have, I’m claustrophobic. So, that strapped around my face and pressing against my nose sends me into orbit,” Gore said.
He doesn’t force his customers to wear them inside. Gore said they can do whatever makes them feel comfortable.
If Mayor Waters decides to keep the mask mandate, Gore said he would abide by it in the same manner he does now.
“I’ve got some different kinds of masks, and face shields and stuff that don’t (make me claustrophobic). And I can still wear those, so either way, whatever he decides, you know, I’m good with,” Gore said.
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