Knoxville, Tenn. (WATE) – Face masks are again required inside all buildings in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reporting that Tennessee counties within the park are considered high risk for COVID-19.
Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are required to wear a mask inside all park buildings, regardless of their vaccination status. Masks are not mandatory outside the park.
The park is made up of parts of Blount, Sevier and Cocke counties, all of which are classified as high risk for COVID-19 by the CDC as of August 9. The National Park Service began using the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels metric in late February to help individual parks make masking decisions based on local conditions.
The CDC divides every county in the United States into three COVID-19 risk categories: high, medium, and low. The two North Carolina counties inside the park boundary, Swain and Haywood, are rated medium risk as of August 9.
Three sets of data regarding COVID-19 are used by the CDC to determine community risk levels: new cases, hospital admissions, and percentage of beds occupied by patients with COVID-19. If conditions are “low or medium”, mask wearing is not mandatory for staff, visitors or others, regardless of vaccination status.
The in-park mask requirement was first implemented in January 2021. It was dropped a few months later but returned in August 2021 as cases of the Omicron variant increased.
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