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Sevier County ends mask mandate, businesses give customers options

The county said it has seen a decrease in positivity rates and will not renew its mandate when it expires Thursday.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Sevier County's mask mandate expired on Thursday, but a few people got a head start on not wearing one.

"It feels very liberating; it has been nice to be able to get out and just breathe," said Bruce Moore, who was visiting Gatlinburg from North Carolina. 

The county said it has seen a decrease in positivity rates and a decrease in availability. 

Once the mandate expires, city officials said they have no plans to renew it. 

"It is nice to be able not to have to worry about it." 

County officials are still asking people to wear face coverings when social distancing isn't an option. Some popular indoor attractions are also still requiring customers to wear them.

"Yeah, we went into Ripley's Aquarium, and they had a mask mandate going on inside, and we didn't mind, and most people did," said Moore. 

Until vaccines can curb virus spread, doctors said people should still wear a mask when physical distancing isn't an option. Some people in town say they will continue to wear them.

"Wearing a mask is just common sense, to be honest with you, because if you have the ability to have some self-control or the ability to reduce the risk of spreading it, then you should take advantage of it," said Marc Goldstein. 

There are several businesses down the parkway not requiring masks, and some are taking a mixed approach.

Dollywood recently announced mask-optional areas in parts of the park in outdoor spaces where people can social distance.

In Gatlinburg, workers and Aunty Mahalia's Candies give customers a choice.

Ober Gatlinburg is modifying its procedures and recommending guests to continue wearing face coverings. 

Ober Gatlinburg will continue to require that its employees adhere to current company policy and wear face coverings in all indoor areas and Shuttle Buses. 

Guests will also be required to wear face coverings when on Ober’s Free Shuttle Buses and on the Aerial Tramway when it reopens to the public. 

Free face coverings will also be supplied to guests at information booths and Shuttle Bus loading locations. 

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