County Mayor Billy Vogle announced this week that face masks will be mandatory in Robertson County.
The mandate went into effect on Wednesday, July 8 at midnight and runs through Aug. 3, but it could be canceled or extended before then.
The decision to require face masks was made in accordance with Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order No. 54 which gives local authorities the power to mandate face coverings in the event of increased COVID-19 cases.
Over the past several weeks, Robertson County has seen an in increase in overall coronavirus positive cases and deaths. The county had 882 cases and 13 deaths as of Thursday, July 9.
NorthCrest Medical Center President and CEO Randy Davis said his hospital currently has two COVID-19 positive patients and several pending results. Both positive patients have been intubated and remain on ventilators.
“I think that it’s a very small ask (to wear masks) to be able to hopefully get back to a little bit more normalcy, to get back to having schools open and to keep these businesses open to generate revenue,” Davis said. “I think (the mandate) is a great thing. I fully support Billy. I like that he was proactive about it.”
The county’s primary goals are to slow the rising numbers of COVID-19 and keep hospitalizations low.
“Pandemic fatigue is real; our confusion and frustration is real...but now is the time to take proactive measures and focus on the health of our family, friends, neighbors and community,” Vogle said in a press release. “Not only has this virus had a detrimental effect on the health and welfare of our citizens, but it has also been responsible for wrecking our economic welfare.”
Officials hope that Robertson County citizens comply with the order. Vogle’s release said “attempts at education and communication are the preferred methods of obtaining compliance” but state law makes violations of the order a Class A misdemeanor.
White House residents who live in Sumner County are subject to a similar mask mandate that was implemented on July 7. Sumner County had totaled 1,802 cases and 56 deaths as of Thursday, July 9.
“We are currently experiencing a public health emergency,” Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt said during a press conference on Monday, July 6. “If community action is not taken, the spread of this virus will continue to intensify, and our daily activities will be impacted. If we don’t take these steps, we may end up where we started with businesses closing which in turn will have a devastating effect on our (families) and our ability to earn a living.”
The mandates were met with varying public reactions. Approximately two dozen people gathered outside the Sumner County Administration Building in Gallatin to protest the order on July 7.
“We have watched our constitutional liberties erode for too long,” organizer JT Olsen said. “I don’t feel like government has the right, which I know that don’t have the right, to force me to wear any type of garment on my body. This is just one small symptom of a bigger issue.”
Others saw the move as a necessary step to get a handle on the pandemic.
“Good decision,” Heidi Benson wrote on The Connection’s Facebook page. “If people had voluntarily done the right thing this would have not been necessary, but many refused. I know this was not an easy decision, but true leaders rise to the occasion even when they know they will be criticized.”
However, not everyone will have to wear a mask all the time. The order does not apply to persons who have trouble breathing due to underlying medical conditions or to anyone under age 12.
Face coverings also do not have to be worn within a person’s residence or automobile, unless transporting others for hire; while eating or drinking, while outdoors, unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate social distancing from others outside the person’s household; while working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside the person’s household is substantially maintained; in situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk; while in a house of worship; or while in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election.
A full list of exceptions to the face mask requirement can be found in the Declaration of Public Health Emergency posted on RobertsonCountyTN.org.
Josh Cross and Russell Vannozzi contributed to this report.