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The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has reinstated a face mask requirement after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report noting that all of the counties within the park had reached the high-risk level for COVID-19.
The park is made up of parts of Blount, Cocke, and Sevier counties. As of August 9, all three counties had been upgraded to high risk.
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Any visitor to the park is now required to wear a mask inside of all park buildings, even if they have been vaccinated. They are not requiring masks in outdoor areas at this time.
The National Park Service (NPS) removed a federal mask mandate and gave authority to local park managers to determine what was needed in their areas, depending on the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels.
The CDC categorizes every county in the United States based on their COVID transmission rate: low, medium, or high. This is done based on new cases of COVID-19, number of hospital admissions, and percentage of beds taken by COVID-19 patients.
Dana Soehn, management assistant for NPS said, “We have been continually monitoring the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker to ascertain current COVID-19 transmission levels within the six local counties that surround the Park to assess the need for operational changes. Per NPS policy and the Smokes Adaptive Operations COVID-19 Plan, masks are required in all federal buildings if one county within the park is in the HIGH transmission level for seven consecutive days.”
Currently, the two counties in North Carolina that are a part of the park are rated as medium risk. Soehn says Blount and Sevier Counties were tracked as HIGH as of August 4.
A statement from NPS reads, “We will continue to monitor community transmission levels and if rates fall back to medium or low for Blount and Sevier counties for seven consecutive days, we will remove the masking requirement.”
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com