KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon hopes to help flatten the curve through a recent emergency executive order, which allows city officials to enforce social distancing guidelines, set by the Knox County Health Department.

Those guidelines were set out in a ‘Safer-at-Home’ order issued by the KCHD March 23. The move ordered non-essential businesses closed, encouraged the public remain home when possible, maintain six feet of social distance, and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

This latest change to city policy allows city regulatory staff to take action when they spot people not following the safer at home policies.

It’s primarily aiming to educate, Kincannon explained, by enabling a city worker to approach a non-compliant person or group, inform them about the procedures in place, and ask them to correct their action. If these steps are unsuccessful, the change allows officials with the city codes and fire departments to issue citations.

A citation is $50, plus court costs, and can be issued each day a violation occurs; however, Kincannon described a fine as a last resort and is optimistic more will comply with advice of health measures when provided with the facts.

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“The first and foremost thing is to inform people what the safer-at-home order is, and what the expectations from the health department are and why we’re doing it. And, we’re doing it to save lives,” she said.

The decision came amid a growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Knox County, and growing reports of people ignoring the order.

“Practicing social distancing is an act of solidarity and compassion for the many of us who have friends and relatives who may be at higher risk.”

Indya Kincannon
Mayor, City of Knoxville

Following reports of people gathering in large groups, including at city parks, city staff also continue to install padlocks on courts, restrooms, and ball fields.

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs reacted to the action by the city in a statement:

“We all share the same goal of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately must realize it’s up to individuals to make responsible decisions. We do not want to create a confrontational environment with the people we represent. We think it’s much better to take an approach of talking with people and educating them about the guidelines before we seek any legal action. Even in a crisis, the rule of civil law still applies. Due process has been expressly laid out by the Governor’s order, but also protocols have been developed locally to report non-compliant businesses to the health department. I have been extremely pleased by the public’s response so far and expect it to continue. It’s great to see everyone come together as a community and rise to the occasion as Tennesseans always do.”

Glenn Jacobs
Knox County Mayor

Kincannon issued a state of emergency for the City of Knoxville March 16. That move restricted gyms, restaurants, bards, and commercial venues beginning March 19.

Kincannon also reminded families Wednesday there is still an opportunity to support local businesses, by carry-out and delivery services.

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