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Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto issues masks mandate

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto has issued a county-wide mandate for face masks.

According to an executive order he signed on July 17, the public is required to wear face masks, with some exclusions, whenever it is not possible to maintain 6 feet of social distance. The mandate went into effect July 19 and will remain effective until 12 a.m. Aug. 3, 2020. The order may be reissued in accordance with executive orders from Gov. Bill Lee regarding the wearing of face masks.

The decision to require facial masks or coverings came after careful consideration, Mayor Hutto said, because it is “imperative that all Wilson County citizens work together to slow the spread” of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Everyone in Wilson County has a duty to be responsible and do their part to slow the spread of this virus,” said Hutto. “Healthcare professionals nationwide have recommended that wearing a face mask, along with other recommended guidelines, is the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. If community action is not taken, the spread will continue to intensify thus affecting our daily activities.”

On July 8, Hutto held a press conference, joined by local healthcare professionals, first responders, and city and county leaders, to “strongly encourage” the use of face masks and coverings in public, stopping short of a requirement. The county has held this position since June 24 after Wilson County was named a hotspot in a press conference held by Gov. Lee.

Wilson County’s total number of cases is 1,664, as of July 21. The number of cases continues to increase, as does the positivity rate. On June 7, the 14-day average number of cases was 8.6 per day. On July 17, the average is 39.5 per day. From June 15 to July 7, the average number of people who tested positive increased from 5.7% to 7.2%. As of July 17, that number has increased to 8.1%.

County and city officials as well as community leaders have made public statements and provided information about ways to slow the spread of COVID-19, without a mask mandate, but cases have continued to rise.

“These efforts have not been in vain, but it is now clear that wearing masks in public places (with some exclusions in the executive order) must become mandatory,” said Hutto.

Mt. Juliet Police and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office have each said they will not enforce written citations to people not wearing masks but will educate and communicate the necessary measures to slow the spread.

“From the onset of this pandemic, we have focused on educating our community about the importance of wearing a mask and taking personal safety precautions,” said MJPD Chief James Hambrick. “We have obtained substantial compliance without charging business owners or community members. This model will continue, and we will issue face masks to those in need rather than issuing a citation.”

MJPD officers will continue providing masks to the community, and WCSO deputies will have face masks available in their patrol units for anyone who may need additional masks.

“This action is necessary to ensure not only everyone’s safety but also that local businesses can remain open and schools can reopen this fall. Allowing this spread to continue puts our health, economy and way of life at risk,” said Hutto. “During the aftermath of the March 3 tornado, Wilson County exhibited the true spirit of ‘helping your neighbor.’ Now, we find ourselves faced with a new challenge, but it can be overcome. Help your neighbor once more by wearing a face mask.”

According to Hutto’s executive order, face coverings don’t have to be worn for the following reasons: within one’s residence or vehicle; by a child 12 years of age or younger; by someone who has trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition; by someone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance; while eating or drinking; while outdoors, unless the person cannot maintain appropriate social distance from others outside of the person’s household; while working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others is maintained; in situations in which wearing a face covering poses safety or security risk; while in a house of worship unless required by that house of worship, but wearing a face covering is such locations in strongly encouraged; while in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged; while engaging in strenuous exercise and/or physical activity, provided however, that such persons shall maintain 6 feet of social distance when not wearing a face masks; and while attending any court proceedings or conducting business at the County Clerk’s Office.

The full executive order can be found at www.wilsoncountytn.gov.

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