Knox County joins Nashville, Memphis in mask mandate

KNOXVILLE (AP) — Knox County on Friday joined Nashville and Memphis in requiring people to wear face masks in many public settings to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The order from the Knox County Board of Health specifically mandates that in most indoor public places, every person aged 12 or older must wear a face covering when they are within 6 feet of another person who does not live in the same household, the a regional newspaper reported. The order will remain in place until the board of health votes to rescind or change it.

For those who do not have masks, the Knox County Health Department is providing free, state-issued cloth masks. Dr. Patrick O’Brien, the board of health member who proposed the mask mandate, said Wednesday he has been in talks to “get a large number of masks available” for distribution.

Places of worship are exempt from the order as are federal facilities, nursing homes, retirement homes and assisted living facilities. People who are actively eating or drinking at restaurants and bars do not have to wear masks, nor do the deaf and hard of hearing and those who are communicating with them, people who need to remove a mask to receive medical treatment and people with conditions that prevent them from wearing masks.

In Chattanooga, masks will be required to enter city buildings when they reopen on Monday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Mayor Andy Berke lacks authority to mandate masks be worn in other public areas of the city because Gov. Bill Lee has given that authority to the county health departments. Hamilton County is still considering a whether to issue a wider mandate. Meanwhile, Berke has pressed for more authority to fight the spread of COVID-19 within city limits.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.