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Sevier County businesses make new mask rules after mandate expired

Some businesses are still requiring customers to put a mask on to keep other customers and employees safe.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Sevier County's mask mandate expired Thursday, but workers at Ober Gatlinburg are asking guests to keep their face coverings on.

“We are obviously recommending that everyone come and bring their face coverings and have it ready,” said Tommy Royther, the park’s marketing coordinator. 

They are recommended for all guests throughout the park and are required while guests ride on the shuttle buses from downtown to Ober. Employees will be wearing them too, despite county officials ending the mandate.

“We think it's really important for us to put our best foot forward, from taking guidance from all levels — from the state, federal and local,” said Royther. 

As the county rules expire, other businesses are making changes too. Dollywood said it now has mask-optional areas, while Ole Red in downtown Gatlinburg and the Hatfield and McCoys Dinner Feud says masks are still required.

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies as well as Wonderworks are encouraging guests to wear their masks, but they are no longer required.

Ober Gatlinburg said that their plan is designed to help everyone have a good time and stay safe at the same time.

Sevier County leaders said that the decision to end the mandate was made after considering the county's decreasing COVID-19 positivity rate and the increase in the availability of vaccines.

However, Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters also urged people to continue wearing masks when social distancing is not possible.

While businesses in Sevier County can continue creating regulations on masks, the Tennessee Supreme Court's order for people to wear masks in some government buildings will continue to apply. 

Public areas of the Sevier County government including the sheriff's office, libraries and public works also still have a mask requirement, officials said.