September 25, 2020 10:00am

Solid Support for Health Orders

A majority of community leaders agree with the Board of Health’s recent restrictions on alcohol sales and gathering sizes.

Photo of Scott Barker
Knoxville, TN Correspondent

Civic and business leaders in Knox County in general support the Board of Health’s recent orders adding restrictions to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, though there is considerable resistance.

In the latest local Power Poll, 62 percent of respondents agreed with the board’s order issued last week mandating that bars and restaurants that serve alcohol close at 11 p.m. daily. About 31 percent disagreed, while 6.7 percent were unsure.

Support slipped a little when it came to the board’s decision to reduce the maximum number of people allowed at public gatherings from 50 to 25. Still, 58 percent supported the order, compared with 33 percent who did not and 9 percent who were unsure.

One third of respondents said the Board of Health’s orders are too restrictive, while 20 percent said they have not been restrictive enough. A 47 percent plurality said the Board of Health has struck the right balance between the two extremes. 

The results reflect the rifts among Knox County residents over the best way to address the pandemic. Unlike the majority of Power Poll respondents, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, who serves on the Board of Health, has opposed every public health order the panel has issued.

At Monday’s County Commission work session, unmasked opponents of COVID-19 restrictions loudly demanded the board be dissolved. Next Monday, commissioners will consider a proposal to strip much of the Board of Health’s authority. 

Sponsored by Commissioners Justin Biggs and Kyle Ward, the resolution would restrict the county to follow the governor’s “Tennessee Pledge” guidelines, which do not include a mask mandate or early closing times for bars or restaurants. Under the proposal, the county also would refuse to cite, arrest or prosecute anyone for not complying with Board of Health orders.

This month’s poll also asked two questions not directly related to policy — one about eating out during the pandemic and another about recipients’ personal connections with people who have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they have eaten inside a restaurant (as opposed to carry-out or al fresco dining) five times or fewer during the past month, with 26.2 percent saying they haven’t darkened the door of a restaurant at all. On the other end of the spectrum, 20.1 percent said they have eaten inside a restaurant 10 or more times in the past month.

Nearly nine in 10 — 86.59 percent — said they know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, an indicator of how pervasive the novel coronavirus is in Knox County. 

The Power Poll is not a scientific poll but a survey of views and attitudes among community leaders. The pool of Knoxville leaders surveyed has recently been expanded. You can see the full list here.

For this survey, 727 people were invited to participate and 164 returned responses. Here are the questions and results.

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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