HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. – Every Republican mayor of counties that adjoin Hamilton has chosen to trust their citizens to make their own choices regarding the wearing of masks and have not put mask mandates in place. However, Hamilton County continues to have mask mandates in place with no clear definition of when they will be lifted.
In an interview with The Tennessee Conservative, Hamilton County Mayor, Republican Jim Coppinger stated, “If 113 people were killed at an intersection or by gunfire in some neighborhood, would you not be screaming for the government to do something about it?”
Republican leaders of counties bordering Hamilton, however, have also expressed their own reasoning to The Tennessee Conservative for choosing to not employ mask mandates to combat the virus.
“Our families are smart. We know how to take precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones from a harmful virus, or other possible dangers without the government mandating our personal behaviors,” Greg Ridley, Bledsoe County Mayor states.
Dr. Lindsay L. Hathcock Jr., Executive Assistant for Bradley County Mayor, D. Gary Davis, states “I have consistently reminded our citizenry of the importance of following the 4 guidelines of wearing a mask when in public, avoiding large crowds, washing hands, and social distancing. I trust them to do the right thing. We have continued to see good results from this practice and I am sure in like every crisis before, that we will prevail, as a community.”
“We have to learn to coexist with the virus. I refuse to politicize the health of the people in this county,” Coppinger said.
Ridley states “Bledsoe County citizens believe in personal freedom, and as mayor, I understand just how important freedom is to myself and my constituents.”
Many small retailers and restaurants are now closed or in the process of closing much due to the effects of Coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions. The Tennessee Aquarium, for instance, recently laid off 134 employees.
Further, many citizens and small business owners fear that mask mandates are pushing businesses outside of Hamilton County, or similarly forcing people who do not like wearing masks to purchase online instead of at area retailers.
Hamilton County resident, Chelsea Wells, stated, “Some restaurants and stores can get a reputation for being overly strict about masks, causing people to not want to patronize them. I go to Dayton to do most of my grocery shopping and to patronize restaurants. Many other I know are doing the same.”
Coppinger stated, “Eighty percent of businesses supported the mask mandates and their extension. Sales tax revenue is up and it is continuing to rise. Online purchasing is certainly up but I believe that is due to people’s fear of the virus, not the mask mandates.”
However, many Hamilton County Conservatives still disagree with the Mayor’s overall handling of the pandemic.
Nancy Petty said, “The Mayor is setting a bad precedent in letting a non-elected board dictate what businesses can and cannot be open, where citizens can and cannot go, what citizens wear or not wear on their face. There isn’t a time limit on how long this can go on. This should not happen in our country.”
Amanda Lynn said, “Mask mandates go against the very heart of what our country stands for, and that is freedom. Mayor Coppinger is allowing left leaning medical professionals to dictate our day to day lives rather than trusting the people to make these decisions for themselves.”
Chelsea Wells said, “I think mask mandates, or any medical mandates, tear apart the fabric of society by pitting business against customer and friend against friend. Instead of masks being a personal choice, they become a political and moral statement, and those who are not wearing them for whatever reason are sometimes seen as outcasts.”
Several Conservative residents of Hamilton County have also stated that if the wearing of masks is to be a requirement, that it should come as a result of legislation, voted on by an official State or Local Legislative body.
Coppinger still stands firmly in his decisions and beliefs on the matter.
“There are a number of fundamental things we have been able to do due to mask mandates, for instance, we were able to safely reopen schools and Hamilton County is one of the only counties that has reopened and remained open.”
“The mask mandate is a temporary measure and only a fix until there are therapeutic drugs available. We didn’t want to do it but it was the only way we could safely reopen and get our COVID-19 numbers down, ” Coppinger said.