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Governor Lee issued Executive Order 54 on Friday afternoon at around 4:30 pm, which Order delegates the Governor’s authority as it pertains to mask mandates to local mayors
Since Friday afternoon, we have been reviewing, processing and working on the details of this Order, including over the duration of the 4th of July holiday. As Blount County’s Mayor, I have been in communication with Mayors across this region, all municipality Mayors here in Blount County, and local health officials. I have also spoken to many citizens and business owners, and have received many messages from citizens who have reached out to my office to voice their opinion.
This pandemic is a constantly evolving situation, and we all are trying to understand the various, and even conflicting, information we all receive. We will continue, as we have all along, to carefully monitor case count and hospitalization data for Blount County. I have no plans at this time to issue a mask mandate.
We all agree that this is not a time to return to normal activity for our community. While we cannot go back to a closed economy, we have to find a way to balance our economic activity and constitutional freedoms with the health and safety of our citizens. Health officials from all over the country are urging the use of face coverings as a simple and effective way to continue protecting ourselves and others while moving about in the community. Personal responsibility will always be the best defense. Let’s all do our part.
Questions remain as to the guidelines on enforcement or legal implications of a mask mandate for our County, and even among those communities who have already issued a mask mandate.
We are constantly monitoring our COVID-19 data here in Blount County. As of today, 0.20% of our population has tested positive, 15 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19, and currently 0.089% of our population is considered active.
We are in constant communication with our local health officials, local hospital authorities, and can assure our citizens that Blount County is prepared.
As of July 7, 2020:
Active Cases: 118
Total Cases: 262
New Cases: 33
14 day average new cases: 9.43 cases per day
We have administered over 5,000 tests at our local health department since the start of this pandemic, with increasing testing administered each week. Our health department testing went from 50-70 per day, to 150-175 per day the last few weeks, to more than 250 tests per day this week alone.
We have just celebrated the birth of our free nation and our right to make our own informed, considerate decisions. Yet so many are waiting for a mandate to force them into making the right choice. We are all trying to understand all the differing information coming from all directions on this new virus. We can simply do the best we can to react responsibly for ourselves and for our neighbors.
All of our collective efforts since March have been for the sole purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19, so that our health systems were not overrun. We all acted on the very important urging to “flatten the curve”. Great sacrifices were made by all citizens, our employers and our small businesses. During that time, we were able to access the necessary PPE for our health care services first, then to our citizens and small businesses. Businesses stepped up and changed production to produce PPE which was in short supply for quite some time. We seem to have been successful in those efforts. And while the spread of COVID-19 can’t be fully stopped, we can continue taking all the recommended precautionary measures to prevent the virus from spreading. We’ve seen our Blount County citizens show great care, love and compassion for their neighbor throughout this pandemic.
As your Mayor, I ask our citizens to continue in that same spirit. How can we help? If you personally need a mask, please reach out to any of our Government Offices. If you are at risk and unable to get out at this time, we would be happy to help connect you with services, local churches or other assistance.
Personal responsibility surrounding masks includes your responsibility to make choices about where you go and where you shop. We’ve had many calls and emails asking if we can mandate businesses to require masks. We’ve seen many sign suggestions for “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Mask. NO Service.” Businesses have had and will continue to have the authority to require masks if they so choose.
I ask, I strongly urge, our citizens to take personal responsibility for their actions during this pandemic. Public health and safety are at stake. Maybe more than ever before, your actions are directly impactful to the lives of your neighbors, your friends and your family. Continue to be diligent. Don’t wait for yourself or someone you love to become sick with COVID-19 before you take this pandemic seriously. I dare say families across this country who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 know how very serious this virus really is. Again, let’s all do our part.
While we continue to evaluate every aspect of the Governor’s Order, including legalities, costs included with implementation, enforceability and responsibility, we implore our citizens to do the right thing and follow all recommended precautions to combat COVID-19, which include wearing a mask and practicing proper social distancing and hygiene.