‘We are still working on trying to interpret’ who can implement mandates, says Knox County health board

It is unclear who in Knox County has the power to enforce COVID-19 mandates.
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 5:19 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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LIVE: Knox County Advisory Board of Health Discusses COVID-19

The Advisory Board of Health is expected to discuss Knox County's rise in COVID-19 cases and possible future restrictions. More:

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, July 28, 2021

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Knox County Health Advisory Board met Wednesday night to discuss the county’s future regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent rise in cases the county has seen.

Knox County has seen a surge of active cases over the past two weeks, with cases doubling or almost doubling each week. Tennessee has also seen a major decrease in available ICU beds- just last week the state’s supply was 90 percent full.

Health Director Dr. Martha Buchanan gave an update on the future of COVID-19 restrictions in Knox County, saying the board is letting local businesses make their own rules around masking. The question is- who in Knox County has the power to impose mask mandates or other COVID-19 restrictions?

Before the end of March, mask mandates and COVID-19 restrictions were put into place by the Board of Health, but that changed on March 29. On March 29, the Knox County Commission voted to strip the Board of Health of its power, making it an advisory board instead. After this change, Dr. Buchanan became the person with the power to implement or remove COVID-19 restrictions.

On April 27, Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 80, placing the power of county mandates into the hands of county mayors. That same day, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs announced that the mask mandate would end at midnight.

As it stands, who has the power to implement mask mandates and COVID-19 restrictions in Knox County is not entirely clear. The Advisory Board of Health spoke about it at the meeting, saying they are still trying to finalize who has the authority to establish mandates.

“There was a recently passed statute which states that the health officer of the county has authority to issue regulations for the general health of the county. That is very new and we are still working on trying to interpret it,” said Knox County Deputy Law Director David Sanders.

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