Hamilton County, TN – Mayor Jim Coppinger plans to announce this week whether the County’s mask mandate will be allowed to expire on November 22nd, or once again be extended.
A tip sent to The Tennessee Conservative by one of our readers stated, “They are extending the mask mandate. Coppinger is all for it.”
Reports from the last week have shown significant spikes in positive COVID-19 cases, which will likely be a partial driver for Coppinger’s decision.
With only a little over a week until Thanksgiving, which will bring people together in gatherings small to large, many fear the numbers of positive cases will see an even more significant spike.
Public Health Officials and local leaders across the nation are urging people to avoid hosting or attending large Thanksgiving celebrations and instead stick to small, ventilated dinners limited to members of the household.
The CDC urges people to continue to wear masks, even to Thanksgiving gatherings, and to bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils.
Not to mention practicing social distancing and the prescribed COVID-19 personal and surface sanitation.
The Hamilton County Health Department, during the Pandemic, has followed CDC guidelines closely in their policies.
Since Coppinger relies heavily on the Health Department advisory board in issuing health directives, it is very likely the mask mandate, at least, will be extended through the holidays.
“With our hospitals, we want to look at hospitalizations and ICUs and with the health department, we continue to do our testing and look at positivity rates, ” Coppinger said.
The Hamilton County Health Department is independent, meaning it “has been given legislative and executive authority,” according to State Representative Jason Zachary.
Zachary stated, ““Under TCA-68, the unelected boards have the power to make laws and apply penalties even during times of non-emergency.”
This means that Coppinger, even if he does not want to extend mask mandates or other COVID-19 restrictions, could easily have his authority overriden by the Health Department if they chose to use their power to its full extent.
Representative Zachary has introduced a bill to the Tennessee House of Representatives designed to limit the authority of the state’s independent health departments to a solely advisory role.
Zachary’s legislation is aimed to balance the need for county executives to make decisions based on advice of public health experts but still remain directly accountable to their constituents.
However, Zachary’s bill will not have the opportunity to be passed until next year.
Representative Zachary stated, “The process for the bill will begin in January but it may take 4 or 5 weeks to get it on the floor. Governor Lee has already told me he is ready to sign it, so, hopefully, we will get this passed no later than February.”
Channel 9 reports that shoppers are once again witnessing a familiar scene, empty toilet paper shelves, as they are likely anticipating another shutdown.
Coppinger has stated that he has no plans to initiate another shutdown, but warns shutdowns could still come from a higher level.
“We saw what those 30 days did to our economy back in April, it put businesses out of business..our small businesses,” Coppinger said.
Mayor Coppinger is slated to make his announcement regarding the extension of Mask Mandates on Thursday, November 19th.
The Tennessee Conservative will publish updates to this developing story as they become available.