April Fool’s Day marks one year since Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon issued the “safer-at-home” order, after three counties dropped their mask mandates. The counties of Hamblen, Roane, and Claiborn allowed their mandates to expire on Wednesday. Similar “15 days to slow the spread” practices turned into weeks, then months, and now, for many across Tennessee and the country.
Kincannon’s Safer at Home order lasted for nearly a month. It prohibited gatherings over 10 and forced closure of all “nonessential” businesses. The order empowered city officials with regulatory authority to take action against anyone who violated the order. The city even made available a non-compliance reporting process to enforce the order – which is still active.
In an interview with reporters, Kincannon claimed that the month-long order saved lives.
“It helped our community understand the gravity of a global pandemic, and that we have to take some drastic action to stop the spread,” said Kincannon.
However, state data on daily COVID-19 information for each county appears to refute Kincannon’s assessment that the order saved lives. Throughout April, only 5 total deaths occurred. The same was true for all of May and June. It was only by the end of July that 23 new deaths occurred. Moreover, the data doesn’t indicate how many of these deaths occurred in Knoxville proper.
Current Knox County regulations include restaurant occupancy limits and early closures, social distancing, and mask mandates. It is unclear if these regulations will last until their expiration dates, since the Knox County Commission recently voted to strip the board of its powers. The board will now be an advisory body to the health department.
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