SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Leaders in Sevier County are hoping to slow the number of visitors to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The Sevierville Police Dept. posted a message on its Facebook page from the mayors of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Pittman Center, Sevier County, and Sevierville:
"We are requesting that businesses in the leisure travel/tourism sector please stop soliciting to guests for vacations in Sevier County through April 14, 2020. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is imperative to follow the guidelines of the CDC and Governor Lee and stay at home when possible," the message said.
Even with some of the biggest tourist attractions shut down, the streets of Gatlinburg were packed a few weeks ago with Spring Break crowds, even after the public was advised to practice safe social distancing.
On March 19, the leaders asked the Tennessee Department of Health to issue orders for restaurants and bars in Sevier County. The orders they are seeking would include closing bars, mandating no more than 50% occupancy for in-building dining, and following CDC guidelines for spacing.
Three days later, officials strongly urged non-essential businesses and services in Sevier County to temporarily close to the public, which coincided with Gov. Lee's Executive Order which called for businesses to use alternative business models.
Since then, the crowds have visibly dimmed and streets appear empty with many businesses and attractions shut down.
This week, Gov. Lee has ordered a state-wide "safer at home" order, shutting down non-essential businesses and urging people to stay home if possible.