‘It is a sign of respect’: Chattanooga mayor strongly encourages mask wearing

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – “This is a very difficult and complex problem and we have to do more as a community to combat the problem,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said.

In a Facebook live Monday, Mayor Berke strongly encouraged folks to wear face masks in public places as coronavirus cases have continued to increase.

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“My mask protects you, your mask protects me. It is a sign of respect. It is a sign that we care about ourselves and our community,” Mayor Berke said.

After a recent surge of cases in Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee extended the State of eEmergency urging people to wear cloth face coverings.

In Nashville, facial coverings are required.

The health order about face masks does provide situations where coverings are not required:

  • By any child aged 12 years or younger. Any child younger than two years old must not wear a face covering because of risk of suffocation.  Parents and caregivers must supervise the use of face masks by children to avoid misuse.
  • In outdoor public spaces unless maintaining a physical distance of six feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible;
  • While engaged in outdoor work or recreation, such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, unless maintaining a physical distance of six feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible;
  • By those who cannot medically tolerate wearing a face covering. No person declining to wear a face covering because of a medical condition shall be required to produce verifying medical documentation;
  • Within one’s own or another’s motor vehicle, provided the vehicle is not being used for public transportation or a vehicle for hire;
  • Within educational institutions, public and private K-12 schools, private colleges and universities, trade schools, post-secondary, and technical colleges, provided K-12 schools comply with the conditions in Nashville Plan: A Framework for a Safe, Efficient and Equitable Return to School, as outlined at https://news.mnps.org/nashvilles-plan-for-reopening-schools/;
  • By those working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces that have more than adequate area for social distancing based on the size of and number of people in the space (either indoors or outdoors). Such persons must be prepared to wear a face covering when interacting with others in groups of 6 or more persons or in groups of any size where social distancing of more than six (6) feet cannot be consistently maintained;
  • When wearing a face covering poses a safety risk or security risk. “Safety risk” includes, but is not limited to, where wearing a face covering may pose a risk to persons working on ladders or at height, wearing other respiratory protection, engaging in heavy physical exertion, operating heavy equipment, or operating in an environment where a face covering hinders communications. “Security risk” includes, but is not limited to, an activity or transaction where establishing the identity of the customer or employee is important. However, employers are encouraged to structure work to promote social distancing and limit close contact as much as possible within workplaces where Face Coverings may pose such risks;
  • When eating or drinking in public at a restaurant, bar, or other food or beverage establishment;
  • While in a place of worship. Places of worship are strongly encouraged to follow the health guidelines in paragraph 3 of Governor Lee’s Executive Order No. 38, issued on May 22, 2020; and
  • While in a building or indoor space owned, managed, or leased by the State of Tennessee or federal government.

Not following the rules could result in a citation.

In Hamilton County including Chattanooga, face masks are not required.

The Hamilton County Health Department is tasked with reopening the county and city.

They have long urged people to wear masks.

News 12 did reach out to them and asked whether or not they are considering requiring people to wear masks.

They were not able to give a response on Monday.

During his Facebook live, the mayor was asked about requiring masks.

“I’ll remind everybody that governor lee did an executive order preempted cities. Preempted means, take away our powers including city mayors across the state to mandate the businesses for reopening, but we’re still looking as what if anything we can do to make sure people are wearing masks,” Mayor Berke said.