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Governor Lee gives county mayors in 89 counties authority to issue mask requirements

Local health departments in 6 counties can still choose whether to issue mask requirements.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 54 on Friday, which gives county mayors the authority to issue mask requirements in case the number of COVID-19 cases rises.

There are 89 counties affected by the Executive Order. The other 6 — Knox, Sullivan, Hamilton, Davidson, Madison and Shelby Counties — have their own locally-run health departments that can choose whether to issue mask requirements.

“While our densely populated urban areas continue to have the highest COVID-19 case rates, our local governments expressed a need for greater flexibility in addressing a rise in cases and that includes setting stronger expectations around masks,” Governor Lee said in a press release.

RELATED: Knox County businesses now requiring customers and employees to wear masks

The order strongly encouraged people to wear face masks in public, in places where social distancing may be difficult. It also said that measures issued by county mayors should follow CDC guidelines.

The order specified that county mayors should not require children under 12 years old or people with relevant medical conditions to wear masks. They should also not be required when at home, in a personal vehicle, while eating or drinking, while in a place of worship or when in a voting site.

The order will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. CST on August 3, unless it is extended.

Knox County's Board of Health voted 7-1 to require masks inside of public spaces starting Friday after the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise. Knox County Mayor, Glenn Jacobs, was the only member to vote against the new policy.

Leaders in Sevier county said they are talking with the health department and legal counsel about the order. The Assistant County Mayor said leaders hope to have an updated decision about whether to require people wear masks by Monday.

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