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Knox County Board of Health decides not to vote on social gathering regulation

The regulation would have limited private and public indoor social gatherings to 25 people.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — The Knox County Board of Health did not vote on a proposal to limit social gatherings to 25 people or less during Wednesday's meeting. They said that the restriction was not currently needed.

The decision came after seeing stabilized trends in COVID-19 data. 

The Knox County Health Department said one of its five benchmarks moved in a positive direction from last week. The "sustained reduction or stability of cases" benchmark dropped in severity from red to yellow.

The health department said the benchmark was encouraging. However, it also warned that things might change with schools reopening and Labor Day weekend approaching.

The Board of Health said there was no indication the regulation for limited social gatherings is needed Wednesday, but they also said the situation could change in the future.

But for now, the board will not vote on the regulation.

Board member Dr. Patrick O'Brien proposed it. He said he hopes to never have to touch it again. But if the number of COVID-19 cases rise and concern grows, the board will re-discuss it. 

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The regulation would not have included schools, nursing homes or places of worship. 

"We are, as a community, doing better. We want to encourage that. It requires all of us so you don't get these sorts of regulations," said O'Brien. 

During the meeting, Dr. James Shamiyeh with UT Medical Center said hospitalizations are also down. He also said the pace of new cases is down. It is taking the county more time to reach 1,000 new cases. 

The data he presented also showed the number of COVID-19 cases in Knox County is started to trend downward, along with the other big counties in the state. 

The board emphasizes this doesn't mean the county is in the clear. People should keep wearing masks and following the five core actions. 

Shamiyeh asked what would happen to case numbers and contact tracing capabilities as Knox County schools and UT reopen. Dr. Martha Buchanan and Lisa Wagoner assured him KCS and UT have systems in place to handle that. 

Next week, the board will discuss the 10 p.m. curfew on bars.

RELATED: Schools should consider community spread, testing capacity before returning to the classroom, expert says