At 11:59 p.m. last night, the mask mandate in Knox County was lifted. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs led the push to end the mandate, taking cues from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
The decision comes after a recent announcement that more than 40% of the population aged 16 and older in Knox County have received one or more doses of the vaccine, with nearly 30% fully vaccinated. Additionally, active cases and hospitalizations have decreased since the beginning of the year.
"It is still everyone’s personal responsibility to protect themselves and their families from the virus," Jacobs said in a press release. "We should all be understanding and respectful of how people choose to do that as we move forward.”
The decision isn’t without its critics, however. Knox County Health Department Director Martha Buchanan voiced her support for the prolongation of the mask mandate last week during a Knox County Board of Health meeting.
“There is some data from Sullivan County where they let their mask mandate sunset, and they have seen an increase in cases," Buchanan said. "They're actually also seeing a surge in variants in Sullivan at this time."
Private businesses will still be allowed to enforce mask mandates and customers are expected to follow them. The mask mandate being lifted does not affect Knox County schools.