Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson issued a new Declaration of Public Health Emergency including a face covering mandate on Thursday.
The declaration and mandate will go into effect Saturday, Oct. 24, at 12:01 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 30, when Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order 63 expires. However, Anderson said if Lee’s executive order extends through the end of the year, he intends to extend the mask mandate as well.
“We are at a crossroads and need to take action,” Anderson said. “We are collaborating with all the mayors, schools and medical staff as we are seeing active cases rise throughout the county.”
In the past 30 days, COVID-19 active case and hospitalization numbers have again significantly increased, putting in jeopardy the operation of businesses, schools and government services.
“No one likes the fact that it is necessary to reinstitute a mask mandate in our county. Unfortunately, the numbers can’t be ignored,” Anderson said. “I appreciate the governor giving us the tools to address this issue without forcing a one-size-fits-all statewide order. I believe local government is best positioned to make these decisions, even when difficult. At the end of the day, I believe that this order is in the best interest of our community.”
Williamson County’s city mayors have been in weekly conversations about the situation during the past several months. All mayors signed off on the mandate except for Spring Hill Mayor Rick Graham.
Because Spring Hill straddles two counties, they opted out of signing, even though Graham said he didn’t oppose the mandate.
Franklin Mayor Dr. Ken Moore thanked Anderson for issuing the mandate.
“It’s important to protect the elderly, the immunocompromised and our first responders,” Moore said. “This virus will have long-term effects on morbidity, psychological and economical effects.”
Brentwood Mayor Rhea Little cited a quote from Winston Churchill from World War II, saying, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
“The mandate makes sense, as it's more in the forefront of people's minds, as this war is going to go on a long time,” he said. “Love your neighbor as yourself and wear the mask.”
Dr. Andy Russell with Williamson Medical Center also spoke at the announcement. He reminded everyone to take precautions by washing your hands, staying 6 feet apart and avoiding large gatherings.
“The mask helps keep health care workers and first responders safe,” he said. “It’s not just about COVID-19, it’s about allowing us to care for everyone in the community. Thank you for the support of this mandate.”
Anderson held a question and answer period after the announcement, and he explained while there are varying opinions on mask effectiveness, he believes the mandate is a necessary safety measure.
“For me, myself, this cloth has become way too political,” he said. “It’s an instrument, a tool that helps people rather than be decisive. It’s always a controversy — everything during these days seems to be a controversial statement.”
There are several exceptions for wearing a face covering based upon specific health or safety issues, as well as situations where individuals can safely distance and do not need to wear face coverings for their safety. All of those exceptions can be found on the county website.
The Williamson County Emergency Management Agency also released a COVID-19 Toolkit Thursday for businesses and the community including social media graphics, decision trees, slideshows and flyers.
Citizens and community partners are encouraged to visit www.williamsonready.org and download the information.
A local Williamson County COVID-19 hotline will become available on Monday, Oct. 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for any questions or concerns. The number is 615-595-4880.
For more information on Lee’s executive orders and statewide COVID-19 numbers, visit https://covid19.tn.gov.