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Knox County health leaders vote to move to Tennessee Pledge, end local reopening guidelines

On July 1, Knox County will start following the state guidelines for reopening.

The Knox County Board of Health voted unanimously Wednesday to end issuing local COVID-19 reopening guidelines and to move to the state's "Tennessee Pledge" guidelines moving forward.

The vote will put Knox County's reopening plans moving forward under the control of the Tennessee Department of Health. The Knox County Board of Health said the move will take effect on July 1.

"Just the sheer amount of work of creating guidelines is pretty significant," said Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department. "Moving to the Tennessee Pledge makes sense logistically, time-wise and honestly, allows myself and my staff to focus more on some of the other things that we need to focus on."

 The county's legal director also advised that it could help prevent lawsuits against Knox County.

  INSTEAD... THEY'LL FOLLOW THE STATE EXEUCTIVE ORDERS... AND THE TENENSSE PLEDGE.

"If we do not exceed what the governor orders, Knox County is immune from lawsuits," said J. Myers Morton, the Knox County Law Director. "That's the advice we've given the health department."

The biggest change that will occur moving to state guidance concerns masks. The board said this means wearing masks will no longer be required moving forward, but recommended per state guidance.  

"We say people must wear masks if six feet of distances can be cannot be maintained," Dr. Buchanan said. "That would be a change in that the state says may."

KCHD said it will release more details about the move soon. The board will still begin meeting every two weeks to discuss local reopening efforts and monitor benchmarks during the COVID-19 response.

Knox County was one of 6 larger metropolitan areas in the state to include Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton and Sullivan Counties that had been following county-specific reopening plans independently from Gov. Bill Lee's Tennessee Pledge.

Locally, Knox County had done little different from the state's current reopening guidance. The move is expected to remove confusion on what specific guidelines people and businesses are supposed to follow locally, as both the state and Knox County leaders noted many people remained largely unaware the Tennessee Pledge did not apply to certain counties despite efforts to make that clear.

The state's most recent guidance allowed for nursing home visitations under specific circumstances, as well as larger community events to take place with specific social distancing measures, such as fairs and parades.

You can read the most recent updates to the Tennessee Pledge at this link.

RELATED: Few nursing homes allow visitors despite state permission

RELATED: Tennessee will allow fairs, parades and other large events to happen in most counties

RELATED: Here's a list of which fairs across East Tennessee have been canceled