Knox Co. Board of Health extends restaurant curfew, social gathering limits to Jan. 21

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knox County Board of Health voted at its last meeting of the year Wednesday night to keep restaurant curfew and social gathering limit in place for the next several weeks.

The decision to extend the requirements came after board members were given an update on where the county stands amid the pandemic. The vote was 8-1, with Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs voting against the proposal.

“Infection, hospitalization and death is not getting better, specifically in our community,” said Dr. Maria Hurt.

The Board of Health voted 8-1 to keep the county’s COVID-19 Restaurant Occupancy Limitation and Early Closure Regulation in place, as is, until January 21.

“If you are going to get together for New Years, make sure that it’s with your household, that you’re not having a big blow out party, because that’s really how we get into these sticky situations,” said Dr. Marcy Souza.

The board also voted to extend the COVID-19 Social Gathering Limitation under the same timeframe.

The message was echoed by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, despite voting against both regulation extensions.

“No, but people need to stay home,” Jacobs said during his vote.

This was also the first time that the health board met since County Commission approved – on first reading – an ordinance to strip it of its policy-making power, and put the decision-making ability solely in the hands of the health department’s Dr. Martha Buchanan.

Members questioned a law director for insight into what could come after a final commission vote is scheduled for next month.

“If that happens, what happens to the things that are in place at that time?” asked Dr. James Shamiyeh.

“My presumption is that they cease with the entity,” answered the county’s deputy law director, David Sanders.

“Another follow up question, Dr. Buchanan though, who has I think, at least what’s been enacted now, has supported all of those based on her vote, would then have the ability to reenact those?” asked Shamiyeh.

Sanders said, “Dr. Buchanan as the health director and health officer of this county would have essentially all the powers that the Board of Health has.”

County Commission is set to vote for a final time on whether to make the Board of Health an advisory body at its January 25 meeting.

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