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Knox County businesses now requiring customers and employees to wear masks

Under a health department mandate, face coverings are required in most indoor public spaces, including restaurants while patrons are not eating or drinking.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — For the past few weeks, Perk City has been strongly encouraging masks for anyone who comes inside. But on Friday — like most other businesses in Knox County — the coffee shop made it a requirement. 

"We're protected as well as they're protected," owner Sharene Jacobs said. "I personally am glad they did it."

A health department mandate began on Friday that requires people 12 and older to wear masks in most indoor public spaces. There are some exceptions, like for places of worship and for people eating or drinking in restaurants.

People with medical conditions are also exempt.

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"Generally, if you're inside a place not your home and not with your family you need to wear a mask," Knox County Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said on Wednesday.

Most Perk City customers were wearing masks on Friday, but some left them at home. A handful of customers were not thrilled about the new rules, Sharene Jacobs said.

"People have a problem with authority telling you what you have to do," barista Tyisha Dixson said. "But if you look at it like you're protecting yourself and protecting everybody else, then it's not such a big deal."

Next week, the coffee shop will have disposable masks available for anyone who forgets their mask at home. Jacobs is also taking orders for cloth masks.

In downtown Knoxville, not much is changing at Union Avenue Books.

Right now, it's operating on an appointment-only basis to ensure customers wear masks and have enough space to social distance. They also have gloves available for anyone who wants them.

"[The appointments] really just allow us all to be prepared," said Davis Shoulders, events manager for Union Avenue Books. "We wipe down the surfaces between appointments."

He said safety is their top concern.

"We wanted to go ahead and fulfill [the guidelines], especially indoors," Shoulders said. "We have such a tight space that you're moving around in."

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