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Mask mandate controversy

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Johnson County Mayor Mike Taylor announced Executive Order Number 4 on Tuesday, July 21. The order makes Johnson County the final Northeast Tennessee location to adopt a mask mandate. If social media is any indication the mask mandate is an immense source of controversy. Executive Order Number 4 is in effect until the end of August 3, in correlation with Governor Bill Lee’s guidelines according to Mayor Taylor.

“This decision to put masks in place, I think, is the right thing to do,” said Mayor Taylor during an interview with The Tomahawk. “If we can cause their anxiety to be lowered, it is the right thing to do. That’s how I arrived at this decision. We are in this unprecedented time and are doing the best we can. We just have to be cautious.”

The Tomahawk’s original announcement had more than 100 comments, 25 shares, and nearly 70 reactions. Comments ranged from approval to disbelief and triggered questions along with conspiracy theories. Many people wondered about the timing and duration of the mandate.

“The two weeks time frame was in harmony with the Governor’s Guidelines,” Mayor Taylor explained. “The order can be modified. We just have to monitor it and look at it as we get closer to August 3. Let’s hope this whole thing will look much better at that time.”

There are a few exemptions to the mask mandate. Children under 12 years old and people with breathing problems are exempt. Masks are also not required in churches or for customers sitting down for a meal. Businesses, organizations, etc. are not obligated to supply masks.

Masks are more prevalent now, but that has not stopped others from ignoring the mandate or wearing masks incorrectly. There have been multiple reports of people with no masks or with masks worn incorrectly. Currently, there are no government consequences to enforce Executive Order Number 4 and no plans to create any. According to Mayor Taylor, Sheriff Eddie Tester should not “be pulled away from what he is doing to enforce this.”

As of Sunday, July 26, The Tennessee Department of Health cites 63 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Johnson County. Find out more about COVID-19 on the Tennessee Department of Health website (tn.gov.health), CDC website (cdc.gov), or call the Johnson County Health Department at (423) 727-9731.