MCMINN COUNTY, Tenn. – McMinn County Mayor John Gentry made the following statement regarding Governor Lee’s recent executive order granting county mayors the authority to recommend or require masks:
“McMinn County will join the vast majority of Tennessee counties in exercising the recommendation rather than the requirement provision of Executive Order 54. I appreciate Governor Lee deferring to local officials to make decisions that are in the best interest of their citizens.
The numbers bear that McMinn County residents have acted responsibly throughout the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While our area has experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases, there are currently less than 80 of those that are active in a county of over 55,000 people. The positive rate remains low at less than 5% of those tested, and when the outbreak at Life Care Center is removed from those numbers, the positive rate of tested individuals drops to just 3%. Furthermore, the hospitalization rate in McMinn County and throughout the state remains low and consistent.
While we do believe the use of masks, social distancing, and good hygiene practices are effective in reducing the spread of the virus, we do not believe that responsible behavior has to be mandated to our citizens. Furthermore, due to the executive order’s numerous exemptions, we have no interest of putting law enforcement in the position of refereeing the wearing of masks and essentially requiring officers to enforce an unenforceable regulation. We will continue to trust the judgment of individuals and private business owners when making decisions about their health and safety.
The use of masks is strongly recommended for those who are in close proximity to those who are most vulnerable to the virus including the elderly and those who are immunocompromised. Anyone who would like a mask can access them free of charge at the McMinn County Health Department from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Health Department can be reached by phone at 423-745-7431.”