‘We’ve seen how masks work’: Local businesses still requiring masks as county mandates end

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Months-long mask mandates are now being lifted in several Northeast Tennessee counties.

Last week, Washington, Carter, and Unicoi counties ended their mandates. Now Greene County and Sullivan County’s mandates are set to expire on February 27th.

County-wide mandates or not, many businesses are still requiring face coverings for customers and employees. In Washington County, mask requirements aren’t going anywhere at Mahoney’s Outfitters.

“It’s not going to change much at all here. We’ve seen how masks work,” said store owner Dan Mahoney.

Mahoney believes it could be another month or two before they’ll reconsider requiring face coverings.

“Until we get far enough vaccinated in the community, [we’re] going to have to keep it up. Because I value our employee’s health,” he said.

Some restaurants, like Watauga Brewing, are also keeping mask requirements for when customers aren’t seated. Co-owner David Andrews said they wanted to err on the side of caution.

“COVID is still there. It’s a very real disease. Businesses have the right to basically request that people wear a mask or not,” said Andrews.

Shoppers at Food City are also asked to keep their masks on.

The supermarket chain released a statement Monday from its CEO and President, Steven Smith, saying in part: “In accordance with company policy, all Food City associates are required to wear face covering (sic) throughout our company and we ask the same of our valued customers, per CDC guidelines.”

The county-wide mandates are being dropped as Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order granting county leaders the authority to issue mask mandates is set to expire on February 27th. Lee has not yet said if he’ll extend the provision.

Regardless, Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison told News Channel 11 he doesn’t plan to extend their mask mandate past that date.

“We’ve come to a point now that I don’t think it’s necessary for the government to say ‘we’re going to mandate you do this,'” he said.

Morrison said the county mandates expiring have no effect on private businesses, educational institutions, or places of worship. He said mask-wearing is still highly encouraged until herd immunity or widespread vaccination is achieved.

“We’re still in the midst of an emergency,” he said.

Sullivan County’s mask mandate also expires February 27th. On Monday, Mayor Richard Venable told News Channel 11 no decision has been made yet on whether they would extend it.

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