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Sullivan County leaders extend mask mandate, citing 'lack of progress' in slowing cases

Sullivan County leaders extend mask mandate, citing 'lack of progress' in slowing cases

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BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — Sullivan County’s mayor and medical director have extended the county’s mask mandate through the end of April, citing the county’s “lack of progress in stopping the COVID-19 spread.”

Face coverings will be required through 11:59 p.m. on April 30 “or until rescinded,” according to the official mandate. Mayor Richard Venable and Dr. Stephen May, the medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department, jointly issued the statement and mandate Wednesday.

“We have vaccinated 73% of county residents over the age of 70, which has resulted in a decrease in the number of deaths; however, a large segment of our population who are vulnerable remain unvaccinated,” the statement said.

An attachment included with the announcement stated that Sullivan County’s COVID-19 case positivity rate is the fifth highest in the state, and its overall case numbers remain high. It also mentioned the presence of the COVID-19 variant B117 (which originated in the U.K.) in the region, concerns about spring break and hospitalizations related to the respiratory illness slightly increasing.

All businesses and other venues open to use by members of the public must require their employees and members of the public to wear face masks, according to the new mandate.

As in previous mask mandates, this one exempts children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious or unable to remove the mask without help, and people in places of worship. It also says that members of the public don’t have to wear masks if they’re eating or drinking at a restaurant or other establishment that provides food and drink.

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