By Meg Dickens
Covid-19 got real in Johnson County on Monday, August 3, as Mayor Mike Taylor signed Johnson County Executive Order 5, extending the current mask mandate from its original end date to 11:59 p.m. on August 29. The update is directly linked to Executive Order NO. 55 signed by Governor Bill Lee on Friday, July 31, which extends the previous order giving county mayors the right to issue mask mandates. As of Tuesday, August 4, The Tennessee Department of Health cites 172 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Johnson County.
“If this order causes just one more person to wear a mask and helps protect our more potentially vulnerable senior residents, it has been worth it,” said Mayor Taylor. “If we can lower the number of senior residents getting infected, it will reduce their anxiety, and I think that is the key.”
Despite the perceived controversy, it seems that many Johnson County citizens support this mandate. In a recent poll on the Tomahawk website, viewers were asked whether they approved of the previous mandate. 73 percent pledged their support while another 4.3 percent were unsure where they stand.
Johnson County Executive Order 5 is nearly identical to Order 4. Businesses and organizations have no obligation to supply masks. Certain groups, including children under 12 years old, people with breathing problems or other CDC approved conditions, and people who cannot remove masks on their own are exempt from mask requirements. Certain situations allow exemptions as well. State guidelines allow people in church or sitting down to dine at a restaurant to remove their masks.
More people are wearing masks since the original mandate, but many continue to ignore requirements or wear masks incorrectly. According to Executive Orders 4 and 5, “infection control masks/facial covering should be worn properly covering the nose and mouth.”
So far, there is no news on whether disregarding this mandate will have government consequences. It seems unlikely considering there were none in place to enforce Executive Order Number 4 and no plans to create any.
In an earlier statement, Mayor Taylor told The Tomahawk, “Tennessee Mayor’s have no authority to make law, and I hope they never do. I do not think that the Sheriff needs to be pulled away from what he is doing to enforce this.”
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.