Published January 18, 2021
Hamilton County, TN – On Wednesday (January 13th) of last week, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger once again extended the county’s mask mandate, with the longest single extension yet, running through at least March 31st.
Hamilton County’s mandate has been in effect continuously since July 10th of last year.
Even with the administration of vaccines now in effect, the county’s new COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
On January 17th, Hamilton County Health Department reported 183 new cases of COVID-19 increasing the total number to 35,891 with 326 related deaths.
In contrast, Whitfield County, Georgia, the County Commission voted last Monday, January 11th, to discontinue their mask mandate.
Like Hamilton County, their mandate had been in effect since July, but in Whitfield County, it only applied to wearing masks inside county buildings.
Whitfield County Commissioner, Greg Jones, referenced Chattanooga as a reason to not have a mask mandate at all, saying their cases are soaring, yet they require masks.
“It seems like Chattanooga is having its runaway up there too and they require masks, so you know, is it really doing anything?” asked Jones.
The incoming Biden administration plans to ask all Governors to require masks in their states.
However, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says that he is convinced that mayors, not governors, are the right people to make such mandates.
Lee states that local officials are more trusted and would get better compliance. And that would still be his opinion, he says, even if the Biden administration applies pressure to comply.
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, however, has expressed that mask mandates are unconstitutional, regardless of whether they come from the State or Local level.
According to Ogles, when comparing Tennessee counties of like-size and makeup, the COVID numbers are identical.
Ogles said, “When you look at the total case counts…different communities with different approaches and different mayors. Look at the total case count, they’re all identical. You look at active case counts, they’re all identical. Look at the spread rate of the virus, they’re all identical.”
In East Tennessee, Grainger County Mayor Mike Byrd extended his county’s mask mandate through January 31.
Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain extended his county’s mask mandate through the end of February.
Roane County Executive Ron Woody said their county’s mask mandate will remain in effect until February 27 as did Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters.
In Northeast Tennessee, Carter County Mayor, Patty Woodby, has extended her county’s mask mandate through February 27th as did Mayor Joe Grandy of Washington County.
Hawkins and Johnson counties have eliminated their mask mandates.
Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison has extended his county’s mandate through February 27th as did Unicoi County Mayor Garland Evely.
There is a wide-array of data that touts the effectiveness of masks and an equal amount of data against the effectiveness.
As Stephanie Witt from the Beacon Center of Tennessee puts it, “I believe in individual liberty and with that liberty comes personal responsibility. Everyone needs to do what is best for themselves and their families when it comes to COVID-19.”