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COVID-19 update: Masks or No masks?

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many different suggestions on how to stay safe from respected authorities like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization). Now, these two organizations are offering differing advice. In light of COVID-19, are facemasks a necessary precaution for all or some?

Johnson County started with one suspected case of COVID-19 at the end of March 2020. As of Tuesday, June 16, Johnson County has reached 25 cases. The number of those wearing masks varies massively. County Mayor Mike Taylor encourages the public to use safety measures such as social distancing and hand washing. He believes that masks are useful precautions, but wearing them is a personal choice.

“The country is opening more things. Make wise decisions about being cautious,” said Mayor Taylor when asked about the current world situation. “We need to do what we can to protect ourselves at this moment. We are seeing more cases because more people are getting out and participating in more things. The virus is clearly among us.”

The CDC says wearing cloth facemasks can help slow the spread of COVID-19. Many organizations have started producing facemasks. The Johnson County Senior Center gave out kits with enough supplies for families to make their own. Retail chains and YouTube personalities have been selling masks either for profit or donations.

On June 8, the WHO announced updated guidelines. The main difference between its suggestions and the CDC’s is who should wear masks. The WHO suggests only health workers, those caring for the infected, or those with symptoms should wear masks. The idea is based on practicality and availability in different countries. Mask shortages could put an enormous strain on healthcare workers.

The Tennessee Department of Health announced new COVID-19 free testing dates and locations effective June 15, 2020. Johnson County’s local test site, the Johnson County Health Department located at 715 West Main Street in Mountain City, will offer nasal swab testing from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays. Depending on the volume of tests, results may be ready within 72 hours. According to Mayor Taylor, the health department is very involved in COVID-19 research and tracing its course.

Mayor Mike Taylor gets updates from state officials daily. See more information on COVID-19 in general or by county, at the Tennessee Department of Health website (tn.gov.health), CDC website (cdc.gov), or call the Johnson County Health Department at (423) 727-9731.