SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters announced Tuesday the county will issue a countywide mandate requiring face-covering usage.

Masks are to be worn in all public indoor places where social distancing is not possible, Waters said in a press conference in Sevierville. The mandate will go into effect on Friday, July 10.

SEE MORE >> Residents react to Sevier County mask mandate

The mandate will run through August 3, in concurrence with Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order enabling local counties to issue their own mask requirements in the event of a spike in cases.

Sevier County has had 857 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 482 recoveries and three deaths, according to Tennessee Deparmtent of Health statistics released Tuesday.

County leaders said Monday they were waiting to make a decision because they are still working with legal counsel and the health department about the implementation of the order.

On Friday, Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order enabling counties under the Tennessee Pledge to issue their own local mask requirements in the event of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases.

Under Gov. Lee’s order, measures issued by county mayors should be consistent with CDC guidance and may have such exemptions as deemed advisable, provided that, at a minimum, there shall be no requirement that a face covering be worn:

  • Within one’s residence or automobile, unless transporting others for hire;
  • By a child twelve (12) years of age or younger;
  • By someone who has trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition or another bona fide medical or health-related reason for not wearing a face covering;
  • By someone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance;
  • While eating or drinking;
  • While outdoors, unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household;
  • While working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household is substantially maintained;
  • In situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk;
  • While in a house of worship unless required by that house of worship, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged; or
  • While in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged.

The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office announced the suspension of on-site visitation, including volunteer ministries, at all SCSO corrections facilities until further notice last Friday.

COVID-19 cases in Sevier County have risen sharply over the last five weeks, ranking at one point in the top five for highest average daily growth rate of cases in mid-June. On June 7, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 110 confirmed or probable positive cases of COVID-19 in Sevier County. On June 18, the state reported 342 cases, a 310% increase from June 7.

This is a developing story and we’ll continue to update the details as they become available.