Updates

Stay up to date with a summary of new developments as they unfold. 

October 16, 2020

The Blount County Circuit Court filed an order that details continuing amendments made to court procedures due to COVID-19. These amendments include self-screening questions for any person seeking entry to the Justice Center or Juvenile Court, stipulations about use of telecommunications, and the indefinite suspension of chamber matters. All matters that would ordinarily be handled in chambers must be dealt with by Zoom hearing or other electronic means, by telephone hearing, or in the courtroom. 

September 30, 2020 

Gov. Lee yesterday signed Executive Order Nos. 63 and 64 to extend certain provisions of previous executive orders through October 30. Executive Order No. 60, which extends through October 28 provisions that allow for electronic government meetings subject to transparency safeguards, including the requirement of live broadcasts of electronic meetings to the public beginning October 1, remains in effect.

Executive Order No. 63 includes provisions that:

• Provide that persons with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are required to stay at home, and that employers may not require or allow employees with COVID-19 to work;

• Urge persons to wear a cloth face covering in places where in close proximity to others, while facilitating local decision-making concerning face covering requirements;

• Urge social distancing from those outside of your household, while eliminating caps on gathering size that have proven overly complex and arbitrary because they do not adequately account for critical considerations such as venue capacity and physical characteristics, type of activity involved, and location (indoors vs. outdoors), and thus undermine the more important focus on social distancing;
• Providing a framework for safe visitation for nursing home and long-term-care facilities;

• Allow for the reopening of senior centers, while providing that capacity must be limited to the extent necessary to accommodate adequate social distancing; 

• Provide that employers, businesses, and venues are expected to comply with the Tennessee Pledge for operating safely (the 6 counties with locally run county health departments continue to have existing statutory authority to issue additional directives on businesses/venues) 

August 28, 2020

Governor Lee issued three new Executive Orders. Executive Order No. 59 facilitates the continued response to COVID-19, extends the statewide declaration of a state of emergency through September 30, and extends certain provisions of Executive Order Nos. 36, 38, 49, 50, 54, & 55. Executive Order No. 60 extends authority for governing bodies to meet electronically through October 28. Executive Order No. 61 extends authority for remote notarization and witnessing of documents through September 30. 

July 31, 2020

Executive Order 55 amends Executive Order 38 to allow for the resumption of contact sports, in a manner consistent with COVID-19-related regulations adopted by the TSSAA. The Order also encourages schools and other education agencies to implement face covering policies, grants provisions for licensed alcohol and drug counselors to practice telemedicine to the same extent as other licensed health care providers due to COVID-19, and extends or amends other provisions. 

July 28, 2020

Governor Lee announced the State of Tennessee's recommendations to reopen schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Recommendations for health, academics, contact sports, and more are available. 

July 8, 2020

Governor Lee issued Executive Order 54 on the afternoon of Friday, July 3 at around 4:30 pm, which Order delegates the Governor’s authority as it pertains to mask mandates to local mayors

Since Friday afternoon, we have been reviewing, processing and working on the details of this Order, including over the duration of the 4th of July holiday. As Blount County’s Mayor, I have been in communication with Mayors across this region, all municipality Mayors here in Blount County, and local health officials. I have also spoken to many citizens and business owners, and have received many messages from citizens who have reached out to my office to voice their opinion.

This pandemic is a constantly evolving situation, and we all are trying to understand the various, and even conflicting, information we all receive. We will continue, as we have all along, to carefully monitor case count and hospitalization data for Blount County. I have no plans at this time to issue a mask mandate.

We all agree that this is not a time to return to normal activity for our community. While we cannot go back to a closed economy, we have to find a way to balance our economic activity and constitutional freedoms with the health and safety of our citizens. Health officials from all over the country are urging the use of face coverings as a simple and effective way to continue protecting ourselves and others while moving about in the community. Personal responsibility will always be the best defense. Let’s all do our part.

Questions remain as to the guidelines on enforcement or legal implications of a mask mandate for our County, and even among those communities who have already issued a mask mandate.

We are constantly monitoring our COVID-19 data here in Blount County. As of today, 0.20% of our population has tested positive, 15 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19, and currently 0.089% of our population is considered active.

We are in constant communication with our local health officials, local hospital authorities, and can assure our citizens that Blount County is prepared.

As of July 7, 2020:

Active Cases: 118

Total Cases: 262

New Cases: 33

Recovered: 141

Deaths: 3

14 day average new cases: 9.43 cases per day

We have administered over 5,000 tests at our local health department since the start of this pandemic, with increasing testing administered each week. Our health department testing went from 50-70 per day, to 150-175 per day the last few weeks, to more than 250 tests per day this week alone.

We have just celebrated the birth of our free nation and our right to make our own informed, considerate decisions. Yet so many are waiting for a mandate to force them into making the right choice. We are all trying to understand all the differing information coming from all directions on this new virus. We can simply do the best we can to react responsibly for ourselves and for our neighbors.

All of our collective efforts since March have been for the sole purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19, so that our health systems were not overrun. We all acted on the very important urging to “flatten the curve”. Great sacrifices were made by all citizens, our employers and our small businesses. During that time, we were able to access the necessary PPE for our health care services first, then to our citizens and small businesses. Businesses stepped up and changed production to produce PPE which was in short supply for quite some time. We seem to have been successful in those efforts. And while the spread of COVID-19 can’t be fully stopped, we can continue taking all the recommended precautionary measures to prevent the virus from spreading. We’ve seen our Blount County citizens show great care, love and compassion for their neighbor throughout this pandemic.

As your Mayor, I ask our citizens to continue in that same spirit. How can we help? If you personally need a mask, please reach out to any of our Government Offices. If you are at risk and unable to get out at this time, we would be happy to help connect you with services, local churches or other assistance.

Personal responsibility surrounding masks includes your responsibility to make choices about where you go and where you shop. We’ve had many calls and emails asking if we can mandate businesses to require masks. We’ve seen many sign suggestions for “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Mask. NO Service.” Businesses have had and will continue to have the authority to require masks if they so choose.

I ask, I strongly urge, our citizens to take personal responsibility for their actions during this pandemic. Public health and safety are at stake. Maybe more than ever before, your actions are directly impactful to the lives of your neighbors, your friends and your family. Continue to be diligent. Don’t wait for yourself or someone you love to become sick with COVID-19 before you take this pandemic seriously. I dare say families across this country who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 know how very serious this virus really is. Again, let’s all do our part.

While we continue to evaluate every aspect of the Governor’s Order, including legalities, costs included with implementation, enforceability and responsibility, we implore our citizens to do the right thing and follow all recommended precautions to combat COVID-19, which include wearing a mask and practicing proper social distancing and hygiene.

CDC - Protecting Yourself & Others

June 29, 2020

Gov. Bill Lee signed three new executive orders Monday in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the state of Tennessee. Gov. Lee’s office announced that he signed Executive Order No. 50 “to extend the State of Emergency related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to August 29, 2020. The order allows for the continued suspension of various laws and regulations and other measures within the orders to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19 through regulatory flexibility, promoting social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings, and protecting vulnerable populations.”

Executive Order No. 50 extends previous provisions that:
• Urge Tennesseans to continue limiting activity and staying home where possible, as well as following health guidelines and maintaining social distancing;
• Urge persons to wear a cloth face covering in places where in close proximity to others;
• Urge employers to allow or require remote work/telework if possible;
• Provide that persons with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are required to stay at home, and that employers may not require or allow employees with COVID-19 to work;
• Limit social and recreational gatherings of 50 or more persons when adequate social distancing cannot be maintained (the 6 metro counties with locally run county health departments may issue different directives on gatherings)
         - This does not apply to places of worship, for which there are guidelines for safe operation of worship services and gatherings, though places of worship are urged to continue virtual or online services where possible;
         - This does not apply to weddings, funerals, and related events, but encourages postponement of large-gathering components of such events;
• Limit nursing home and long-term-care facility visitation, while providing a framework for safe, limited visitation set forth in Executive Order No. 49, and continue the closure of senior centers

Executive Order No. 51 further extends Executive Order No. 16, as previously extended by Executive Order No. 34. This allows governing bodies to meet electronically regarding essential business as long as they provide electronic access to the public and meet the safeguards established in that order to ensure openness and transparency. The order is extended through August 29 to ensure that governmental entities are able to carry out essential business in a safe, transparent way while determinations of how best to return to safe, in-person governmental meetings remain ongoing.

Executive Order No. 52 further extends Executive Order No. 26, as previously extended by Executive Order No. 37, which allows for remote notarization and witnessing of documents, subject to compliance with certain procedures. The order is extended through August 29 to ensure that persons, and particularly populations especially vulnerable to COVID-19, can continue to engage in commerce and execute legal documents without requiring in-person contact.

More provisions involving bars, restaurants, health care facilities and procedures are also touched upon in Executive Order 50. A more complete list of measures extended beyond June 30, as well as more detailed information about Executive Orders 51 & 52 can be found on the state’s website.

June 12, 2020

Governor Lee signed into effect Executive Order No. 49, which amends the requirements for long-term-care facility visitation as outlined in Executive Order No. 38, Paragraph 6. Guidance for the implementation of Executive Order No. 49 can be found here

June 10, 2020

The Unified Command Group announced today that new options for limited visitation at Tennessee's long-term care facilities will be released soon. An executive order will follow, and will permit visitation beginning on Monday, June 15, 2020. 

Facilities that choose to re-open to visitors must first meet the following prerequisites:
Testing of all staff and residents at least once, and compliance with applicable regulations regarding weekly staff re-testing;
- No new COVID-19 cases among residents or staff members in the previous 28 days;
- Compliance with Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities regulations and infection control guidelines;
- Overall stability of the disease burden present in the community where the facility is located.

Long-term care facilities who meet the prerequisites and allow limited visitation must follow guidelines, which include:
- Making appointments prior to visiting and limiting the duration of visits;
- Limiting the number of visitors per resident and daily visitors per facility;
- Enforcing visitor social distancing and mask requirements; and
- Screening all visitors with symptom and temperature checks immediately upon facility entry.

Long-term care facilities may utilize three options for limited resident visitation to take place:
In an outdoor setting, weather permitting;
- Using a visitation booth or protective barrier; and,
- In a resident’s room if the visitor documents a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to the visit.

Separate provisions for visitation involving accommodations for support for residents with disabilities and other critical assistance or end-of-life care also remain in effect.

May 28, 2020

Governor Bill Lee’s Economic Recovery Group issued new Tennessee Pledge guidelines for noncontact sports, camps, and higher education. Under Executive Order No. 38 issued May 22, noncontact sports may resume under certain precautions, including efforts to maintain social distancing, wear masks when feasible and added sanitization measures.

Previously released summer camp guidance has been expanded to address the safe reopening of overnight camps. The Economic Recovery Group recommends additional protective measures for residential camps, including thorough pre-screening measures, limited mixing of campers and staff and modified sleeping arrangements, among a number of additional efforts to protect campers and staff.

Newly released Higher Ed guidelines recommend a number of safety precautions to protect staff and students. Recommendations to Tennessee colleges and universities include establishing policies for on-campus housing, how to isolate and care for sick students and staff, limiting number of attendees for in-person classes, and other measures. This guidance was created by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in partnership with state colleges and universities and related associations and the Unified Command.

May 26, 2020

The Tennessee Supreme Court released an order extending the state of emergency for the Judicial Branch of Tennessee until otherwise noted. The order suspends jury trials through Friday, July 3, 2020 and outlines social distancing requirements to be put in place for trials taking place after July 3. Deadlines that are set to expire on Sunday, May 31, 2020, remain extended through Friday, June 5, 2020. The Court anticipates that there will be no further extensions of these deadlines. The moratorium on actions to effectuate an eviction, ejectment, or other displacement from a residence is lifted effective June 1, 2020. Orders of protection and temporary injunctions that would otherwise expire by Sunday, May 31, 2020 are extended through Monday, June 15, 2020. The Court anticipates that there will be no further extensions of this deadline. Courts continue to be encouraged to conduct as much business as possible by telephone, teleconferencing, email, video conferencing, or other means that do not involve in-person contact, with all of these methods being preferred over in-person court proceedings. 

May 22, 2020

Executive Order No. 38 supersedes and repeals Executive Orders No. 30, 33, and 35. Executive Order No. 38 encourages persons, businesses, and organizations to return to work while following to the greatest extent practicable the Health Guidelines and Tennessee Pledge Guidelines issued by the Governor's Economic Recovery Group. Social distancing guidelines for groups of fifty (50) or less are included in the order.  

May 20, 2020

Tennessee continues to advance the state’s reopening plan under the Tennessee Pledge, as the Economic Recovery Group issued updated guidelines today for restaurants and retail, along with new guidelines that enable attractions and larger venues to reopen with social distancing and capacity restrictions on or after May 22. The State continues to meet the White House gating criteria with a downward trend in case growth, increase in testing capability and sufficient hospital capacity.

The updated guidelines enable restaurants and retail to increase capacity as long as social distancing protocols remain in place. Restaurants should continue to space tables 6 feet apart, or install physical barriers where adequate separation isn’t possible. Bars remain closed unless used for seated, in-restaurant dining where there is 6 feet of separation between customer groups. Live music is permissible with appropriate precautions, which include maintaining at least 15 feet of separation between performers and audience in order to reduce potential exposure.

Large, non-contact attractions and venues including concert and performance venues, amusement and water parks, auditoriums, theaters and dinner theaters, zoos, large museums and more can also reopen safely under new Tennessee Pledge guidelines. Strong measures to protect employees and customers are recommended, including screening of employees and customers, creating plans for managing guest flow, and limiting capacity to ensure separation between small groups.

Full guidelines can be found on TNpledge.com for:

 Retail

Restaurant

Attractions and Large Venues

Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with State and local health departments.

May 15, 2020 Update

As Tennessee continues to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the state's Economic Recovery Group announced today that it will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and retail to instead focus on social distancing best practices effective May 22 and issue guidelines to facilitate the safe reopening of larger, non-contact attractions on or after May 22. New Tennessee Pledge guidelines will be released early next week. Six counties -- Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan -- may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with State and local health departments. 

The new Large Attraction guidance applies to those businesses that can effectively practice social distancing with strong measures to protect both employees and customers, including racetracks, amusement parks, waterparks, theaters and dinner theaters, auditoriums, large museums, and more. Restrictions on social gatherings of more than 10 people remain in place for the time being. Updates to Restaurant Guidance will include a lift on capacity restrictions, allowing for increased service as long as social distancing guidelines are adhered to, including 6 feet between tables. 

May 7, 2020 Update

Executive Order No. 35 was released, allowing for the reopening of small group, non-contact entertainment and recreational venues pursuant to new safety guidelines. These venues include bowling alleys, arcades, shooting ranges, and other venues that allow for groups of less than ten (10) people maintaining six (6) feet of separation from persons outside their own group. Concert venues, sporting event venues, racetracks, indoor children's play venues, roller and ice skating rinks, and other venues where operation is likely to result in close proximity to persons outside of one's own group are to remain closed for the time being.

May 6, 2020 Update

Tennessee's Economic Recovery Group released additional guidelines today for: Recreation, Offices, Lodging & Accommodations, Construction, and Manufacturing

From the Governor's News Announcement: Non-contact recreation businesses like bowling alleys, arcades, dance classes, water sports, golf and more will be able to reopen Friday, May 8 (see details in Executive Order to be issued on May 7). The Tennessee Pledge guidelines recommend capacity limits, spacing requirements, and frequent sanitization, among others. Larger venues and activities where social distancing is not feasible remain closed.

Governor Lee also issued Executive Order No. 34, which extends the provisions of Executive Order No. 16 to allow governing bodies in TN to meet electronically through June 30, 2020 so long as they provide electronic access to the public and transparency regarding the proceedings.

May 5, 2020 Update

Governor Lee issued Executive Order No. 33 amending Executive Order 30 to allow reopening of close contact personal services pursuant to new safety guidelines.

May 4, 2020 Update

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will begin a phased reopening plan on May 9.

May 1, 2020 Update

The Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives issued guidance for gathering together in Houses of Worship.

April 30, 2020 Update

Governor Bill Lee's Economic Recovery Group Releases Guidance for Close Contact Businesses for May 6 Reopen.

April 29, 2020 Update

Blount County, Tennessee – Based on the Governor’s April 29 press conference, certain close-contact businesses will be provided guidance that will allow them to open on May 6 in Blount County. The Governor indicated more information will be available from the Economic Recovery Group by the end of this week. When we receive confirmation directly from the Governor’s Office of any new information or Orders that impact citizens and/or businesses within Blount County, we will do our best to pass that information along as soon as possible.

***The information included in this Advisory is the most currently released information and subject to change as the Governor’s Orders develop.

As part of the 89 counties that follow the Governor’s “Tennessee Pledge” plan for reopening, the governments of Blount County, the cities of Maryville, Alcoa, Friendsville and Townsend, and the town of Louisville hope to educate the public on the Governor’s Orders and how they relate to our community compared to the six metro counties – including Knox. Knox County’s Plan, “A Community Strategy for Phased Reopening” can be found here: https://covid.knoxcountytn.gov/pdfs/A-Community-Strategy-for-Phased-Reopening.pdf

We must continue to remain vigilant to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. As we know, it is a highly contagious virus and as we begin to participate in more normal activities, we also must continue to take measures to protect ourselves and others – especially those who are most vulnerable. This remains our individual responsibility to protect our families, friends, neighbors and loved ones.

As local government leaders, we are concerned about the confusion caused by how the Governor’s Orders are applied and communicated. As one of 89 counties that must follow the Governor’s Orders, we are subject to laws that are different to our neighboring Knox County which is one of the six metro counties allowed to provide their own plans.

The Attorney General provided an Opinion that explains the Governor’s authority in a public health emergency and the inability of local governments (89 counties) to override the Governor’s decisions. The opinion states, “Regardless of the choice that he might make, political subdivisions may not take any action that undermines the executive orders. Thus, a political subdivision may not take any action that is either more restrictive or less restrictive as to the subjects addressed in the orders. Such action would be at cross purposes with the orders and, therefore, constitute an impermissible legal conflict.”