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As mayor pleads for visitors to stay home, Governor Bill Lee sends troopers to Gatlinburg

In a press conference, the governor said the troopers were sent in order to give him a first-hand view of the situation there.

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Local and state leaders doubled down on efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout Sevier County as the county continues to see visitors stream in. 

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters reached out directly to people considering visiting the county in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We’re asking that you put your vacation plans on hold. We know you want to be in Sevier County, and you know how much we enjoy having you here. But for the safety of your family and ours, please stay at home," Waters said in a statement. 

And in a press conference, Governor Bill Lee echoed those sentiments. Governor Lee said he sent troopers to Gatlinburg on Thursday "to assess the movement of people." 

"I sent troopers to Gatlinburg yesterday just to walk the streets and give me a first-hand view of what it's like out there," Governor Lee said.

He added that sending troopers was necessary because some counties do not have a mandatory stay-at-home order. 

Sending the troops, he said, was necessary given the amount of people who traditionally gather in Gatlinburg. 

“We are, to a great degree, shut down as a state. Every major population center has a stay at home order," Lee said.  

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Sevier County has grappled with the amount of tourists streaming into the county. 

Last Thursday, the mayors in Sevier County asked local businesses to take recommendations for slowing the virus more serious, but said they lack the authority to force businesses to close.  

Then, last Friday, Friday the mayors asked the state health department to require restaurants to limit capacity to 50 percent and all bars to close.

Some businesses closed a precaution several days ago, including the Ripley's attractions and the SkyLift Park.  

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