Health Board discusses County Commission resolution, votes to extend 11 p.m. curfew

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For the first time, we’re hearing from Knox County’s Board of Health after a marathon County Commission meeting earlier in the week.

Monday’s discussion surrounding the health board took center stage. Commissioners passed a resolution expressing their stance on the board’s authority.

Health board members talked about it at their meeting on Wednesday’s night.

But there was more than just talk from the board; there was also action.

The Board of Health extended the alcohol curfew for 14 more days because they say that was their original intent when passing the regulation.

11 p.m. Alcohol Curfew

The Board of Health extended its “COVID-19 Curfew Regarding the Sale and Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages in Certain Establishments Regulation.”

Dr. Patrick O’Brien made a motion to tack 14 days on to it and reevaluate it after 28 days, as originally stated when the regulation was proposed two weeks ago.

“The one thing I’ll say is I’m hoping that will be it,” O’Brien said. “I really hope we can see what the cycling has done with the disease and we can drop this. Because we do not want to ping pong our public. We don’t want to drop it then bring it back.”

The move passed in a 7-1 vote. Board member Dr. Dianna Drake voted no.

Dr. Martha Buchanan and Mayor Glenn Jacobs were not present for the vote.

Social Gathering Limit

The health board also extended its “COVID-19 Social Group Transmission Suppression Regulation” under the same time frame as the curfew extension, both until October 15th.

Board members voted to pass it in an 8-0 vote.

Knox County Commission Resolution

The board’s meeting comes two days after a fiery debate by community members about the health board.

Dr. O’Brien sat through the hours of public forum.

“I appreciate the public commenting,” he said. “Our job, again, that we have to tell the public is we’re here to do the best we can with the information we have as health care professionals and others, to do the best for Knox County.”

Dr. Maria Hurt also chimed in during the conversation. She said she’d like to clear up the difference between being un-elected and unaccountable.

“We are accountable to our professions, to our certifying bodies, our oaths, the state boards to which each of us have to comply with the law. So we are held accountable,” she said.

On Monday, county commissioners passed a resolution favoring a limit on the health board’s authority in an 8-3 vote. After the meeting, some commissioners said it was actually more of a statement than a change.

That point was reiterated by the county’s deputy law director, David Sanders.

“It is an aspirational statement of the County Commission, but it does not actually impose anything on this board, nor does it affect the regulations of this board,” Sanders said.

“It’s still really on us to look at the data and try to make these scientifically-driven decisions, and I think we’re all committed to do the best we can,” said Dr. James Shamiyeh.

Citizen Representative

Though County Commission’s move did not change the power of the board, commissioners did vote to alter its make-up. They nominated a citizen representative to provide another perspective, choosing teacher and business owner Ani Roma.

Roma participated in Wednesday’s meeting.

The health board also decided it will meet every other week, instead of weekly.

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