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Published: July 14, 2020

Not a mandate, but a plea

On July 3, Governor Lee granted County Mayors (a.k.a. County Executives) in Tennessee’s rural counties the power to mandate the wearing of facemasks in public. I have chosen not to issue that mandate, and I stand by that decision.

Instead I am issuing a plea that we act like the longstanding neighbors and friends we are and express kindness by CHOOSING to wear a mask in public. If another health issue prevents it, make every effort possible to practice social distancing and stay away from places where you cannot be a safe distance from others.

At the same time, know that masks are not foolproof. Follow the commonsense instructions we’ve had from the start: frequently wash and sanitize your hands and surfaces you touch, like your phone. Avoid touching your face. When you visit a store, try not to touch anything you aren’t going to buy. If you feel bad, STAY AT HOME. I cannot emphasize that enough.

The only way we can return to the life we miss so much is to accept our personal role in stopping transmission of the virus. Let’s choose not to act out of rebellion – the ‘you can’t make me’ attitude - and realize our actions matter. Coronavirus is real. It can be deadly for seniors and people with other health conditions (that includes YOUR loved ones), and the long-term consequences, even for young people, are unknown.

With all that said, why not have a county-wide mask mandate? Enforcement would be extremely difficult. Our deputies and city police officers do not have time to write tickets for failure to wear masks. Our court system, already backlogged due to COVID-related closures, would be overwhelmed.

I also fear a mandate would divide us even further than politics, rumor, and opinion already have. People on both sides of the mask argument have very strong feelings, and I worry about the possibility of “citizen’s arrests” in grocery stores. It wouldn’t be funny, like it was when Gomer Pyle did it on the Andy Griffith Show.

I further ask that we be more considerate and careful on Facebook. There are some good things about social media but it also lets us say things that are awful and untrue. Stop before you type that insult, or share an unfounded accusation.

The Rotary Club has a motto that members recite at the beginning of every meeting. It’s called “The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say, and do.” If what you want to say or type meets these standards, we’ll all be good:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build good will and better friendships?
  4. Is it beneficial to all concerned?

I have seen this community come together to face many challenges, and this could be our biggest. No one can argue that Coronavirus is extremely contagious. Protect yourself, your family, your friends and neighbors by doing all you can to stop it.