Tri-Cities mayors contemplate mask mandate

Local Coronavirus Coverage

(WJHL) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order 54 grants mayors in 89 counties to authority to issue COVID-19 mask requirements, however, local officials aren’t sure about issuing orders just yet.

Many health officials believe the best way to slow the surging numbers of coronavirus is by requiring people to wear masks or face coverings.

Greene County has been under a public health state of emergency due to coronavirus, but Mayor Kevin Morrison says many factors would have to be considered when having a mask mandate in the county.

“I feel very comfortable in saying to the general public particularly for government facilities if you do not have a mask on then your not coming in,” Morrison said. “But not so much in telling you that you have to have a mask on when you leave your house.”

After a county department head and their spouse tested positive for COVID-19, masks became a requirement to enter the courthouse and for some Greene County employees.

“We certainly are requiring now or have directed all of our employees that have direct contact or interaction with the public for any transaction to wear a mask,” Morrison explained.

He says he’s not sure if enforcing a county-wide mask mandate is practical, especially when it comes to people who can’t wear masks because of health reasons.

“If there’s a mask mandate and you see a person that’s not wearing a mask, do they fall into one of those categories for instance? So enforcement of something like that is very problematic,” Morrison said.

Carter County Mayor Rusty Barnett said they are encouraging people to wear a mask and social distance, but they are not looking at implementing a mask mandate for the county.

Washington County, TN Mayor Joe Grandy says he’s looking at making it mandatory to wear masks when going into government buildings but not for the whole county.

“We can issue a mandate for masks but there is no enforcement mechanism,” said Grandy.

He’s been in contact with other mayors around the Tri-Cities to see what they can do as a group to help stop the spread of the virus.

“Mayor Venable and I have had multiple conversations and we were talking about different ways we could go forward with this mask issue and one of the things were working on now is rolling out a campaign in the next few days that will encourage people to wear masks,” said Mayor Grandy.

The governor’s executive order states that the six counties within Tennessee that have there own local health departments, like Sullivan County, can issue mask mandates on there own as well if they feel it is necessary.

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