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"A big help to us" | Local businesses say they're glad to see big-name retailers requiring masks too

A handful of East Tennessee counties require employees and customers to wear masks indoors. Now, some retailers are choosing to adopt that policy everywhere.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — At Sunrise Supermarket in Knoxville, safety is their top priority.

"I'm hoping to send [my employees and customers] back home safely to their families," said Jackie Chao, the store manager. "That's my biggest concern."

For now, they're limiting store capacity to just 35 people at a time, so everyone can maintain 6 feet of distance. There is hand sanitizer placed at the entrance and people are required to wear masks to enter.

"You still see some people forgetting about putting the mask on when they walk in the store," Chao said. "We ask them, 'Do you have a mask with you in or in the car?' If they don't, then we actually provide a mask for them just to be safe."

While most customers have had no issues with the rules, Chao said there have a few who have pushed back.

"A few had the response that, 'Other stores are not doing it, so why are you guys enforcing the mask?'" he said. 

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This week, a growing number of retailers have announced plans to require masks for all employees and customers. That includes Publix, Target, Starbucks, CVS, Walmart and Sams Club, among others. 

Chao hopes the more national retailers require masks, the more local businesses will adapt to the mask regulations too. 

"If everybody starts enforcing as a regulation to their stores, that's a big help to the local stores like us," he said. "I know a lot of people still don't understand the reason to have a mask on, but if it's just one person that we can help, just do it for right now. We're all in this together."

Public health leaders have emphasized that widespread mask wearing is key to flattening the curve and getting control of COVID-19.

"The CDC said if pretty much everyone wears the mask in the country for the next month or two, we can squash this thing out," said Knox County Board of Health member Dr. Marcy Souza.

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