Wearing a mask in public is now mandatory in Hamilton County. Mayor Jim Coppinger announced this during his Monday press conference at the Golley Auditorium. Non-compliance can be punished by a $50 fine or 30 days in jail.
“This afternoon, after much thought and consideration and consultation, I’ve asked Dr. Paul Hendricks to mandate the wearing of facial coverings.
This mandate will be effective on Friday the 10th at 12:01 a.m. The decision is due to the increase in the number of active cases that we have, the hospitalizations in our community, and the number of patients in the ICU.”
The county mayor said he hoped that by taking this action, the number of cases will be minimized. He also said that by mandating facial coverings, it would make businesses more successful by making the wearing of masks uniform in all stores and businesses. Mayor Coppinger also brought up schools during his press conference.
Concerning enforcement, Sheriff Jim Hammond said he was studying the mandate before commenting.
Bill Hagerty, candidate for U.S. Senate, said, “Tennesseans are tired of mandates. Period. They do not need the government telling them what to do. I trust the good people of Tennessee to make the right decisions for themselves."
County Mayor Coppinger said, “Our county cannot afford another interruption, and I ask your help in avoiding one. We want to help our public school students by opening our schools on time,” said the mayor. “Our students need to attend schools face to face with their teachers, interact with their classmates, and have the whole experience of growing up.”
“But our only chance of doing this is to minimize the spread of this extremely contagious disease and virus that is in our county.”
After this, County Mayor Coppinger advocated for social distancing by staying six or more feet apart from one another. In addition to this, he also asked for residents to maintain “proper personal hygiene” by washing hands.
“Obviously, this was an extremely difficult decision, and it’s not a comfortable position to be in, but we know it’s the right thing to do,” said the mayor. “None of us should stand by and allow this horrific virus to spread throughout our cities and counties and neighborhoods and families. Let’s protect each other by wearing these face coverings and masks.”
Dr. Paul Hendricks said several scientific studies show masks significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. He said that until a vaccine is available, wearing masks will just be a part of everyday life.
“If we want to keep our economy open and protect ourselves and each other, especially the most vulnerable, we need to do a few simple things,” said Dr. Hendricks, who repeated the oft-said guidelines. “This is not too much to ask.”
Health department administrator Becky Barnes said there are now 2,909 cumulative positive cases, and 38 new ones today. 1,933 of those have recovered, but currently contact-tracers are monitoring 941 people with COVID-19. Ms. Barnes said 55 COVID patients are in the county’s hospitals, and 17 of those are in ICU. She said 35 county residents have died as a result of COVID-19, with 29 having underlying conditions.
County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said he hoped that people will comply with the mandate. The attorney said noncompliance is a class C misdemeanor.
“A class-C misdemeanor is punishable by a $50 fine or 30 days incarcerated for anyone who has violated this,” said Att. Taylor.
The mayor said he has recently spoken with Sheriff Hammond about enforcing it. However, he said the county does not want to be “heavy-handed” with punishment. Mayor Coppinger said each of the law enforcement agencies around the county are on the same page.
“The idea is not to go out and enforce it, the idea is for people to just comply,” said the mayor. “But if there are people who just refuse to comply, we have this directive in place.”
Mayor Coppinger said there are places in the county where wearing a mask is not required. Examples he gave was being at home walking a dog, or being outside, or walking where there is no one around. He also said that wearing masks in restaurants are not required, as they would need to eat and drink.
“Me wearing this mask not only protects you from me, but also me from you,” said the mayor as he held up a mask. “I’ve heard all the arguments and gotten emails and heard the anger from both sides.”
Click here for the directive.