Testing the limits on Knox County’s new social gathering regulation

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Put ten people in a caution-tape-made square, ask them to keep 6-feet of distance between themselves, and a clearer picture of Knox County’s Board of Health Social Gathering Limitation regulation.

It starts Friday and stays in effect until January. Although there are some exceptions, and those are noted below, the regulation applies to indoor and some outdoor situations. The regulation is intended to help curb the spread of the virus. But we wondered, would we be able to recognize an overcrowded space based on square feet?

So the WATE 6 On Your Side Team took a field trip to the front lawn to learn about general spacing and put the new social gathering regulation to the test.

Per the regulation, all public or private gatherings of more than 10 people age 12 or older indoors, within the same 360 square feet space, are prohibited. This does not include people who live in the same household. And keep in mind that businesses that have more square feet available can have more than 10 people in that space.

So we started with some caution-tape and cones on the front lawn outside the WATE 6 On Your Side station, and added 10 volunteers from the 6 On Your Side team. The first observation: 360 square feet felt smaller than many of us imagined.

What is like to be in this amount of space with the maximum number of people?

“There’s not a lot of room for activities,” said one producer. Another person noted that when divided into “families” the spacing didn’t feel all that different from fast food dining rooms when there weren’t regulations in place.

@madisenkeavy

We’re visual people, so we had to demonstrate Knox Co. Social Gathering Limitations for ourselves. Thoughts? #knoxville #tennessee #knox #news

♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz

It’s important to note a violation of the regulation only happens if strangers get closer than six feet from each other — indoors or outdoors.

Further, the regulation states that people are not allowed to gather in a space like this if it is within 30 feet of any restaurant, club, or business allowing on-site alcohol consumption.

You can view the regulation online here.

Exceptions to the regulation

  • Nursing homes, retirement homes, long-term care facilities, or assisted-living facilities
  • Places of worship, weddings, funerals
  • Private dwellings places of residences
  • Places owned, leased, managed by the government
  • Public and private schools
  • Waiting areas or terminals for public or common transportation
  • Health care facilities
  • Gatherings for purpose of political protest or activity
  • Gatherings for the purpose of providing therapeutic support for those suffering from mental illness
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness

Enforcement of new regulation

The Health Department is still reviewing the regulation as of Thursday, as are Knoxville Police Department officials, according to their spokesperson.

With guidance from the City Law Department and other stakeholders, the Knoxville Police Department is continuing to assess the new Board of Health regulations that were passed last night and what role it might play in the enforcement of those regulations. A determination has not been made at this time, but education and public awareness efforts will remain a top priority.

Scott Erland, Knoxville Police Department spokesperson

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