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County Mayor breaks from mask mandate, residents urged to wear face coverings

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

As the National State of Emergency remains in place, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced at the start this month that the State of Emergency in Tennessee will continue through October with adjustments made to previous executive orders.

“Tennessee’s response continues to be one of the most targeted in the country, and a continued State of Emergency ensures we have access to additional federal funds, ensure our health care capacity is stable and loosen restrictions that would otherwise hinder our response time,” said Gov. Lee. “COVID-19 is still a serious problem, and I encourage every Tennessean to continue social distancing and to do their part to make wise choices and help mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Lee signed Executive Order No. 63 to extend certain, targeted provisions of previous executive orders through October 30, including local governments’ authority to institute mask requirements. Remaining restrictions on businesses and gathering sizes in the 89 counties with a state-run health department have been removed.Lee’s order also allow for the reopening of senior centers while providing that capacity must be limited to the extent necessary to accommodate adequate social distancing;

Lee also signed Executive Order No. 64, which extends through October 30 provisions that allow for remote notarization and witnessing of documents.Executive Order No. 60, which extends through October 28 provisions that allow for electronic government meetings subject to transparency safeguards, including the requirement of live broadcasts of electronic meetings to the public beginning October 1, remains in effect.

Interestingly, and for the first time since the pandemic reached the region, Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor decided to refrain from a “mask mandate” and instead use the “wording, “Masks are Highly Recommended,” imploring the community to do its part “to help keep Johnson County healthier.

In a Public Notice from the Johnson County Mayor’s Office, Taylor started, “In accordance with the position of the President and the Governor of the State of Tennessee as of October 1st, 2020, I do Highly Recommend and Strongly Urge the continuation of the wearing of facial coverings in close spaces where social distancing is not possible. As we are all aware, this pandemic is not over! This virus has affected many lives in our community, and we mourn with the families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. As we go forward, I am asking that everyone be considerate of their neighbor and be especially considerate in the presence of those in a high-risk category.”

“As the mask mandate wording is changed to “MASKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED”, I implore you to do your part to help keep Johnson County healthier by following ALL the recommended guidelines such as hand washing, hand sanitizers, and social distancing,” Taylor continued. “Also, be advised, the Board of Education is empowered by the State to require students and staff to wear masks. The Court System as well, can and does require the wearing of facial coverings. Private businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers have the right to require that masks be worn. Because of the care and concern, you the citizens of Johnson County have for yourselves and for your neighbors we are able to move forward, but we must remain vigilant and persistent as we work together to rid our county of this disease.”

As the region continues to see the rising of COVID-19 cases, which subsequently led to the current closing of all schools in Johnson County, resident are asked to recognize the seriousness of and continuation of the pandemic. For more information please visit www.tn.gov. 

Gov. Lee’s Executive Order No. 63 includes provisions that:

•Provide that persons with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are required to stay at home, and that employers may not require or allow employees with COVID-19 to work;

•Urge persons to wear a cloth face covering in places where in close proximity to others, while facilitating
local decision-making concerning face covering requirements;

•Urge social distancing from those outside of your household, while eliminating caps on gathering size that have proven overly complex and arbitrary because they do not adequately account for critical considerations such as venue capacity and physical characteristics, type of activity involved, and location (indoors vs. outdoors), and thus undermine the more important focus on social distancing;

•Providing a framework for safe visitation for nursing home and long-term-care facilities;
•Allow for the reopening of senior centers, while providing that capacity must be limited to the extent necessary to accommodate adequate social distancing;

•Provide that employers, businesses, and venues
are expected to comply with the Tennessee Pledge for operating safely (the 6
counties with locally run county health departments continue to have existing statutory authority to issue additional directives on businesses/venues);

•Continue access to take-out alcohol sales to encourage carryout and delivery orders;

•Allow broad access to telehealth services;

•Increase opportunities for people to easily join the healthcare workforce;

•Facilitate increased testing and health care capacity;

•Extend deadlines and suspend certain in-person continuing education, gathering, or inspection requirements to avoid unnecessary person-to-person contact; and

•Increase opportunities to work remotely where appropriate.