White House Recommends Closing Bars, Limiting Social Gatherings to 25 in Knox County

Jul 21, 2020

Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen

A White House Coronavirus Task Force governors' report lists 18 states, including Tennessee, as "red zones" for rising cases of COVID-19. Twenty-five Tennessee counties are also in the report's red zone, including Sevier County and Hamblen County. 

For these hot spots, the White House task force recommends limiting social gatherings to 10 people and closing bars and gyms.  Red zones are identified as having more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people. 

Knox County is included in a list of yellow zones, which comes with the recommendation that public officials limit gyms to 25% capacity, close bars, limit social gatherings to 25 people and implement pooled testing methods, which refers to mixing several peoples' samples into one test for faster turnaround times.

But while the report was issued to governors on Tuesday, July 14, these recommendations were not discussed at the Knox County Board of Health's meeting on July 15. Health Department officials say they had no knowledge of the White House recommendations until WUOT News asked about the report on Friday, July 17 — after it was publicly leaked by the Center for Public Integrity

A spokesperson for Governor Bill Lee's office, Gillum Ferguson, said in a statement, "Many of the suggestions listed are already in place in certain counties in Tennessee, and we are working with local governments on the best way to address the pandemic in their unique communities."

However, multiple recommendations listed in the report are not in place in Knox County and health department officials said KCHD received no information about this report from the Governor's office before it was publicly leaked. 

There have been 500 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Knox County since last week's Board of Health meeting. All members of the board have now been sent the report and will discuss the White House recommendations at their upcoming meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m., according to health department director Martha Buchanan. 

See the full report here, and the list of recommendations for Tennessee below.

From the White House Coronavirus Task Force Obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit newsroom based in Washington, D.C.