Mayor Jacobs’ chief of staff: Mask mandate for City-County Building still in place

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(Photo: Molly Kennedy/WATE)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Despite a rollback of the mask mandate by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, masks will still be required in parts of the City-County Building.

An email sent Wednesday morning to employees in the Knoxville City-County Building from Knox County Mayor Chief of Staff Dwight Van de Vate noted that the building’s tenants include city and court system offices which still require masks to be worn.

“The City-County Building is a multi-tenant facility owned by the Public Building Authority,” Van de Vate states in the email. “Considering that, PBA has left a mask requirement in place for the common areas of the building (elevators, hallways, mezzanine), and we ask that all county employees comply with the request. Should PBA’s requirement change, we will let everyone know as quickly as possible.”

“Please consider also that any employee who wishes to continue wearing a mask in the workplace is free to do so. And let me say in the strongest possible terms, any form of criticism, teasing or harassment of any employee for wearing, or not wearing, a mask will not be tolerated.”

Jacobs made his decision to allow the county mask mandate to “sunset” hours after Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order to allow his COVID-19 pandemic orders to elapse.

Van de Vate made sure to also emphasize that Jacobs’ decision was not an indictment on masks.

“Mayor Jacobs directed that Knox County’s mask mandate would end at midnight,” Van de Vate says. “Understand that this announcement is in no way intended to suggest that masks are or are not effective, nor is it intended to suggest that masks should not be worn. Instead, it reflects the Mayor’s long-stated position that these decisions are best left to individual businesses and organizations.

“As the governor stated yesterday, Tennessee has done a remarkable job in taking the pandemic from a public health crisis to a managed health condition. It is not, however, over. It remains incumbent upon all of us to be diligent in following the guidance offered by federal and state authorities, as well as the Knox County Health Department. The Health Department continues to do exceptional work under difficult circumstances, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.

“It is likely that additional guidance on these matters will be offered over the coming days. In the interim, please know that the Mayor is grateful for all that you do.”

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