Not mandatory in Franklin County
With rising COVID-19 case numbers and widespread reluctance to wear protective masks, the Health Department is advising Tennesseans to put them on.
Amanda Goodhard, the Health Department’s public information officer, said last week that her agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are strongly recommending that residents deem it a priority to wear protective masks.
“You are definitely better off wearing a mask,” she said, adding that it also demonstrates personal consideration of others. “You’re really doing it for your neighbors.”
Gov. Bill Lee has left it up to county mayors to decide if residents under their jurisdiction should be required to wear masks.
Franklin County Mayor David Alexander said in a Facebook video posted on Monday that he will not take the step to make residents wear masks although he deems doing so is a good idea.
“We’re in the land of the free, and as far as this county mayor is concerned, we shall continue to be free,” he said.
Alexander said that it would difficult to legally enforce mask wearing, and requiring children to do so in school would be difficult.
He referred to adults and how enforcing against “stupid” is a losing battle.
Alexander said that common sense dictates to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash hands to reduce the chance of catching COVID-19.
Goodhard, in her recommendation, referred to comments made by Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey about how important it is to don masks.
Piercey said the growth in coronavirus infections is hitting urban and rural areas.
“Please listen carefully: This is not the time to get back to normal,” Piercey said. “We’re all experiencing what we call quarantine fatigue. But I can guarantee you this virus is not getting tired.”
Tennessee reported its highest daily case count on July 1 with 1,806 reported incidences of COVID-19.
The totals released by the Health Department from the disease’s inception in Tennessee through July 1 showed that there had been 609 deaths among the 43,315 total cases reported since the pandemic started.
The state is taking precautionary measures now to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 and not go back to a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order.
A stay-at-home order was issued previously and unemployment skyrocketed and businesses incurred significant financial losses.
Gov. Bill Lee is calling on citizens to get the state back on track and avoid regression, economically and physically, as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
Lee has asked Tennesseans to wear masks every day and continue social distancing because of a rise in positive cases which have him very concerned.
“We are seeing a lot of Tennesseans take unnecessary risks,” Lee said.
He said the idea of making masks mandatory is being considered, although he expects to work on a resolution with leaders who have requested guidance on an alternative to a statewide mandate.
“Don’t put our state two steps backward by refusing to wear a mask or refusing to social distance or refusing to pay attention to something as simple as washing your hands,” Lee said.
Orders mandating masks in public have already been issued in Memphis and Nashville.
According to a recent opinion by the Tennessee state attorney general and Tennessee laws, health departments in individual municipalities or counties can issue a mandate and supersede less stringent or conflicting ordinances if they deem the move is in the best interest of public health.
The CDC says that cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading
the virus to others. Wearing a cloth face covering will help protect people in the immediate area, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people, such as in stores and restaurants.
Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings, the CDC says.
The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced when cloth face coverings are used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, according to the CDC.
The cloth face coverings being recommended are not surgical masks or respirators, which are considered critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, the CDC recommends.
The CDC says that cloth face coverings are not personal protective equipment and are not appropriate substitutes for N95 respirators or surgical facemasks in workplaces where respirators or face masks are recommended or required to protect the wearer.