Office door

The Knox County Commissioners on Tuesday lifted the mask mandate inside all county buildings, but are allowing individual office holders to keep them in place, should they choose to do so. The commissioners are urging people to oblige — and be respectful.

The Knox County Commissioners have lifted the mask mandate inside all county buildings.

With the state’s mask mandate lessening to a mask advisory on Tuesday, the commissioners opted to follow suit and lift their mask mandate as well, which has been in effect for more than a year.

Masks will no longer be mandated in “common spaces,” commissioner Kellie Streeter clarified, and sheriff’s deputies serving inside the courthouse will no longer be handing them out at the door.

The commissioners did, however, leave it up to the individual office holders on how they want to proceed in their own work spaces. Offices like the clerk-treasurer’s office, ones with a lot of foot traffic, are likely to keep the mandate in place for awhile longer.

And the commissioners urged people to oblige.

“If an individual department head or a local business asks you to wear a mask, please be respectful,” said commissioner T.J. Brink. “But I am glad to hear we’re going forward and into the next phase.”

County health officer Dr. Alan Stewart joined the commissioners digitally and expressed his cautious support of the county mandate being lifted. He encouraged people to proceed with caution.

“The governor has said — and emphasized — that while there is no longer a mandate, he is still encouraging people to wear masks,” Stewart said. “Businesses can still mandate masks.

“It’s inexpensive and it doesn’t hurt us and it does make it safer, so I would encourage people to continue wearing masks as we look to reopen our economy and our community.”

Knox County remains blue on the state’s COVID-19 color-coded dashboard, and new daily cases have been fewer than ten for more than a month.

There have been several days of no new cases at all, but there were six new cases reported on Tuesday.

Streeter encouraged visitors to the courthouse to be mindful that some of the offices may still require the use of masks. Signs will continue to be posted on the doors, and the county’s elected judges, too, have indicated they will likely keep mask mandates in their own courtrooms.

Sheriff Doug Vantlin also said masks will continue to be mandated at the jail at least for the foreseeable future.

“We’re lifting it. We’re done,” Brink said. “But if you, as an office holder, want to do something different, then we will support you on that.”

Sheriff’s deputies, while no longer enforcing a mask mandate inside county buildings, will remove someone refusing to wear a mask and causing a disruption inside an office that still requires one.

“Just please be respectful of those entities,” Brink said.

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