McMinn, Bradley counties will not require face masks

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ATHENS, Tennessee (WDEF) – McMinn County is the latest in Southeast Tennessee to reject a mandatory face mask rule.

Mayor John Gentry posted this evening “McMinn County will join the vast majority of Tennessee counties in exercising the recommendation rather than the requirement provision of Executive Order 54. I appreciate Governor Lee deferring to local officials to make decisions that are in the best interest of their citizens.”

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So far, only Hamilton County has ordered mandatory mask wearing in Southeast Tennessee.

Our count so far: Grundy, Marion, Bledsoe, McMinn & Bradley Counties have all declined to mandate, though they are encouraging mask use.

Bradley Mayor Gary Davis announced his decision last night at the County Commission.

“I understand both sides of the argument. I understand the argument that face masks don’t feel real good but as I sit in a room with a face mask on I know it isn’t hurting me, that’s for sure. So i encourage you if you are out in crowds or in public please do everything you can to put one on.”

Bradley County has seen a significant rise in coronavirus cases in the last couple of weeks and even was listed in a national publication as a looming Covid-19 eruption.

You will have to wear a mask if you enter Bradley County office buildings.

But up the interstate in Athens, the County Mayor touts his communities responsible reaction to the virus so far.

“The numbers bear that McMinn County residents have acted responsibly throughout the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While our area has experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases, there are currently less than 80 of those that are active in a county of over 55,000 people. The positive rate remains low at less than 5% of those tested, and when the outbreak at Life Care Center is removed from those numbers, the positive rate of tested individuals drops to just 3%. Furthermore, the hospitalization rate in McMinn County and throughout the state remains low and consistent.

Mayor Gentry also is skeptical how you would enforce the order.

“Due to the executive order’s numerous exemptions, we have no interest of putting law enforcement in the position of refereeing the wearing of masks and essentially requiring officers to enforce an unenforceable regulation. We will continue to trust the judgment of individuals and private business owners when making decisions about their health and safety.”

We are still waiting for definitive word on a mask mandate in Rhea, Sequatchie, Meigs and Polk Counties.