Counties announce end of mask mandates ahead of governor’s decision

Gov. Bill Lee, left, announces a $200 million relief program for businesses affected by the state’s stay-at-home order for non-essential businesses at Arnold’s restaurant in Nashville on June 2, 2020. To his right are House Speaker Cameron Sexton, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, Rep. Pat Marsh, and Rep. Harold Love. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

With Gov. Bill Lee’s decision pending Tuesday about whether to extend an executive order allowing county mayors to decide whether to impose mask mandates to help stem the spread of COVID-19, several local leaders are already announcing they will no longer require face coverings.

Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron, whom Lee had personally lobbied to impose a mask requirement in July, dropped the mandate last week. Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto has announced a local mask mandate will expire Wednesday, but he’s still urging people to wear them in public. (Meanwhile, WZTV-TV reported the administrative building in Lebanon is closing down after eight employees tested positive for COVID-19.)

Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett announced a mask mandate for businesses open to the public will end on Wednesday. But the requirement will remain for government offices, including schools.

Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain said he would extend a mask mandate if the governor leaves the decision with local officials. The number of positive tests has declined in the East Tennessee county since the mandate went into effect on Aug. 4, he said. Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman cited improving infection numbers in dropping a mask mandate.

But in Sullivan County, local health department director Stephen May said he wants to extend the county’s mask mandate beyond Sept. 30. Sullivan is among six counties with independent local health departments that have the authority to set their own policy responses to the pandemic. The others are Shelby, Davidson, Knox, Hamilton, and Madison counties.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has been speaking out against the power of local health boards to override the wishes of county mayors.

“They’re acting like a legislative body that are voted or elected and they’re not. They’re appointed and they’re actually putting in criminal enhancements for people not to wear masks,” WCRB-TV quoted Sexton as saying during a visit to Chattanooga last week. “That’s outside their purview.

“They are absolutist and they are able to control anything and make people do whatever they want,” he said. “That’s not good policy. That’s not a good step.”

56 Responses to Counties announce end of mask mandates ahead of governor’s decision

  • Avatar
    steve cates says:

    I wish we had a health dept. that was able to extend the mask mandate in Rutherford. It is so irresponsible not to continue it. We had gotten used to it and most people I saw were observing. Now, they are not.

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      karen bracken says:

      Mask do nothing to stop a virus and that is a fact. They cause more germs than they stop. Do some research and stop following the sheep.

      • Avatar
        Perry Aubric says:

        Karen is wrong, but she is always ill informed.

      • Avatar
        Stuart I. Anderson says:

        But karen, you don’t seem to understand. It’s not about effectively stopping the virus any more than any of the expensive “environmental regulations” is about effectively stopping global warming. It’s simply about leftists being control freaks. That’s the personality flaw that makes them leftists. If you are a control freak you like seeing government boss people around – not as great as you having the authority to boss people around yourself, of course, but it’s the next best thing.

        • Avatar
          MARLE says:

          Stuart……………………..I thought the leftists were the people who wanted abortion on demand, legalization of drugs, legalized gambling and prostitution, no religious or gov oversight on pornography, choose-a-sex identities etc. How on earth is that sound like bossing people around and wanting government control?

          Are you ok?

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Yea I understand the dichotomy you are pointing out. If they are far enough out on the left spectrum their long-term goals are to “fundamentally change this country.” Thus they are advocates of a Cultural Marxism designed to slowly dismantle social norms and energize the disaffected to serve as shock troops enabling them to do so. All the things you mentioned were/are part of a government enforced social norm that leftist want to overturn as part of their goal. Of course, once achieving their goal they want to impose a library full of rules and regulations governing how people live their lives while confiscating formidable portions of their wealth which is inevitable under a socialistic system which they ultimately seek to impose.

            On the other hand, I agree with many of these policy prescriptions coming at the topic from a libertarian conservative perspective. I simply want people to have as much freedom as possible and have as small a government footprint on society as possible while allowing people to keep as much of their earnings as possible. PERIOD. No creating “New Man – Heaven on Earth” as the totalitarian idealists seek to do that has cost the world tens of millions of dead innocents. For me just freedom is enough.

          • Avatar
            MARLE says:

            Here is a norm they wanted dismantled: Blacks must sit in the back of the bus and at pee in Blacks Only restroom and Not sit at the Woolworth counter.

            So yeah….I think sometimes the left does want to dismantle norms some of which were embraced by the majority of the population. That’s what bossing people around looks like.

            I think if they could legalize drugs they wouldn’t want the government regulating hardly anything about it. I think the same for prostitution, pornography and the like. Just b/c you say that once they dismantle norms they will want to demand regulation is Just You Saying so. Doesn’t make it true, at all.

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            That was then and this is now. Sometimes norms enforced by government regulations need to be dismantled the libertarian in me enthusiastically says. Now we are into government enforcement of “choose-a-sex” and the availability of abortions. That this isn’t simply a desire on the left for more personal freedom and rather an attempt to “fundamentally change this country” in a replay of the French or Russian Revolution in a “mostly peaceful” program just check out the Democratic Platform featuring the “Green New Deal” and the program of their latest talisman Black Lives Matter. It ain’t pretty MARLE, actually it’s pretty horrible.

          • Avatar
            MARLE says:

            And the people THEN were as sure as you are now that dismantling THEIR norms was the ruination of society. Go back and look at the film of John Lewis trying to integrate a restaurant lunch counter in Nashville. They firmly believed in all the norms related to race just as you do about gays and a whole host of other ills (facial hair for instance although that is the least egregious of your standards/norms).

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Indeed, when change takes place there are those who like the change and those who don’t. I am a libertarian conservative well out on the right of the political spectrum. The country is moving left, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly, and I don’t like it. Apparently now that 60% to 75% of Americans are pretty consistently choosing “Wrong Track” when asked about their opinion about the direction of the country most Americans don’t like at least the results of our trajectory either but the Republican Party is incapable of providing the leadership to change that trajectory. As Lenin so brilliantly taught, majorities in and of themselves count for little.

          • Avatar
            MARLE says:

            You are not nearly the libertarian that I am b/c you do not exhibit the capacity to see the other side of things which is mandatory to accept the libertarian philosophy which is “do your own thing but be prepared to suffer all the consequences that follow from it”.

  • Avatar
    Donna Locke says:

    In Maury County several years ago, we had a nonelected, nonexpert, three-person “panel” make the decision to stop putting flouride into our water. The average resident of this county had no say in this at all. The county board of health opposes this panel’s decision. We still don’t have a return to fluoridation, as far as I know.

    By the way, the Gannett Borg has turned our local paper into another vehicle for the top editors of The Tennessean. The local editor is gone. There is a silent “site leader.”

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I believe in true Gannett tradition they call him “Dear Leader.” BTW, Gannett is at $1.39 per share as I write. Less than a Big Mac I’m happy to say.

      • Avatar
        MARLE says:

        And Cumulus Media, the parent of Conservative radio wtn in Nashville was, in 2018, a $21 stock and today is $5.41. What’s my take-away on conservative media based on that?????????

  • Avatar
    karen bracken says:

    The people of Sullivan county need to stand up and REFUSE to comply with unconstitutional mandates by a group of appointed people that have overstepped their authority. I am sure if we look deep enough we would find some financial benefit to their tyrannical policies. But they are not law and we are not obligated to comply

  • Avatar
    karen bracken says:

    They did a good thing for people. If you did some research on the REAL reason for fluoridation in your water you would know how dangerous adding fluoride to the water is. The Jews in the concentration camps were kept DOCILE by giving them fluoride. Many european countries do not fluoridated and they do not have an epidemic of tooth decay and Americans never did. So tell me when did we experience death due to tooth decay that warranted poisoning our water supply with the same dose of fluoride for new borns as well as adults. There is a reason they encourage mothers to give their newborns water without fluoride. It has also been proven fluoride lowers IQ. Catching on yet? Putting fluoride in water was done to spare chemical companies the expense of safely disposing of it so they decided to dump it in our water supply. If you want to reduce tooth decay it is called flossing and brushing. I am sure some politician made out quite handsomely in this scam.

    • Avatar
      Donna Locke says:

      Karen, I did research it, and the evidence favors fluoridation at well-monitored low levels. Some water systems have levels that are too high. I grew up here and was a kid when our water fluoridation began in the 1960s.

    • Avatar
      Perry Aubric says:

      Hahahahahahaha. Oh, Karen. Really? A throwback to fluoridated water is a Commmunist plot from the 1950s.

      Hey folks. Don’t listen to a conspiracy theory nut like Karen. Ask your dentist. Go ahead. Ask your dentist.

      And ask your doctor about masks. Go ahead. See what your doctor says.

      Jesus, these nut jobs on wearing masks and fluoridating water.

    • Karen –
      Two Holocaust scholars have confirmed the Nazis DID NOT use fluoride in concentration camps to keep Jews docile, or for any other reason. Where did you get that information?

  • Avatar
    David Collins says:

    Unbelievable, the head doctor at the CDC said just within the past week that if everybody in the country would just wear masks, Covid-19 could be defeated in this country within a matter of weeks. Yet, our governor opts to go the opposite direction. So for all of you who are celebrating this so called “restoration of freedom” from the mask mandate–enjoy your “freedom” AND the continued failure of the economy to rebound because the virus is still running rampant and spreading like a California wildfire. But hey, look on the bright side, at least you won’t have to wear a mask when you attend the burial of a good friend or loved one who died from the virus!

  • Avatar
    MARLE says:

    How is even possible that in the 21st Century, with CDC leadership (Drs Fauci and Birx) having 40yrs of Public Health, professional experience with communicable, upper-respiratory disease spread THAT we still do not know how far an viral aerosol will travel? This is simple physics.

    We have had “human lab rats” in our quarantine clutches since we off loaded the contagious from the Princess Cruise lines 8 months ago. This Exact virus, in human specimens, should have been able to answer this question (as well as research over the last 40 yrs). And yet, here we are in Oct and still putting up/taking down CDC information regarding simple basic data.

    Taxpayers should claw back the salary of these people who have clearly been drawing income and pensions yet remained unprepared to provide leadership when a crisis of financial and health consequence hit.

  • Avatar
    Beatrice Shaw says:

    It’s ridiculous to have come this far and stop wearing masks now. Counties should not be legally allowed to go against the wishes of a Governor-especially when we know lives are at stake. I agree with one person here in that most people are already wearing them so we need to continue for as long as it takes.

  • Avatar
    Yvonne says:

    I am sad that there are still individuals who refuse to accept the huge preponderance of evidence that wearing masks will save lives. When mask wearing mandates are adopted, we can safely return to many normal activities of daily life. Activities that are vital to the health of our local economies. Where is the downside to wanting to protect the health of others in our local community by simply wearing a mask? Such a simple and caring thing to do.

  • Avatar
    Norma says:

    I guess the politicians eager to dump the mask-wearing mandates are expecting only voters for their opponents to die from seasonal flu, covid-19 or both. It’s ironic that every level of government in this country is pushing STEM and STEAM programs in schools to train more scientists while so many of the politicians at every government level are simultaneously belittling and ignoring the advice from today’s scientists, including medical researchers.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      Our politicians do not belittle and ignore the advice from scientists, rather they incorporate that advice as one factor in making political decisions which also incorporate considerations of the cost of following the scientific in terms of the economy, education of the young, psychological health of the population etc. Once the political decision is made and policy is formulated then, in a democracy, the citizens have a chance to pass judgement on the decision that was made. Pretty good system I say!

  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Republicans don’t believe in science and the general public pays the price. Trump has already sacrificed thousands of American lives by downplaying the truth, lying and installing non scientists to his scientific panels and advisors. “Only the Best”, yeah right! His “best” usually turn up unemployed or in jail. The public will have a chance to change this soon. Get out and vote!

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      We will Taxpayer, don’t you worry, and when the election is over we will have a new Republican U.S. Senator, seven out of nine Republicans running for Congress will be elected, and the Republicans will keep their Super Majority in the General Assembly. Now Taxpayer, please calm down.

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    Stop #LeeTheTyrant and the Tyrant Health Departments and the Tyrant Mayors and let the people be FREE

    • Avatar
      MARLE says:

      Were you this worked up over seat belt mandate? A seat belt ONLY helps you and no one else but nonetheless we have mandated that. What effort did you make to stop that?

      I was in a broadside car accident between me (in a VW bug) and a Plymouth Fury (as in Christine) and I was NOT wearing a seat belt (in 1968). That saved my life.

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    “House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has been speaking out against the power of local health boards to override the wishes of county mayors. ”
    Hello, the mayors and the governor are not members of the legislative branch and the TN Constitution does not allow the Legislature to transfer any powers of Making Laws to any branch.

  • Avatar
    Yvonne says:

    Stuart, The system you admire so much has been rigged through gerrymandering and laws that disenfranchise large swaths of voters. Those in power, abuse that power on a daily basis, to game the system.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      I believe it was Winston Churchill who said something like “Democracy is a terrible form of government except when compared to all the others.” Gerrymandering does make things “awkward” from time to time, but just what “. . .large swath of voters” have been disenfranchised? You really should report that to the FBI Yvonne if you know of any. Funny I haven’t heard anything about that before. On the other hand, the Heritage Foundation has found over a thousand of cases of voter and ballot fraud, and with the joke of mail-in voting which the Democrats are pushing with as few checks and restraints as possible, I’m afraid that if this election is close there will endless disputes about the legitimacy of the results because of fraud. It’s election fraud that’s the real problem.

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    Governor Ron DeSantis has proven it: it is actually possible for a politician to wise up and do the right thing. In a sweeping order announced September 25, the governor has opened up the entire economy. He has even limited the ability of local governments to impose more restrictions and collect fines for mask violations.

    Inevitably, the announcement was decried by the lockdowners, even though, as the governor pointed out:

    – Covid+ hospitalizations have declined by 77% since the July peak.

    – Covid+ ICU hospitalizations have declined 72% since the July peak.

    – ED visits for Covid-like illness have declined by nearly 80% since the July peak.

    – Daily hospital admissions for Covid have declined by 81% since the July peak.

    – The percentage of positive diagnostic test results for new cases was reported at 4.32%.

    – 24% of hospital beds are empty; so are 23% of ICU beds.

  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Gerrymandering makes things a “little awkward at times” but Stewart doesn’t think that anyone has been “disenfranchised” at all. When you have people elected in a crooked system where the rules were set up to favor one party – precisely what the gerrymandering was set up to do, Stewart believes that is OK. (R) know exactly what they are doing and it is all about keeping control of power by ANY means necessary. The voter suppression works the same way, it adds to the undemocratic impact of Minority Rule. Taken in total all these little dirty tricks by republicans are “disenfranchising” by damaging a fair election. And Stewart has “not heard of any of it before.” The latest Federal investigation shows that the total number of voter fraud “guilty verdicts” have averaged ONE (1) PER STATE -EVERY SEVEN (7) YEARS. The cry of voter fraud by the republicans and Trump are nothing more than a diversion. Just one more lie, but I would guess that you have not heard anything about that either, Stewart.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      If it’s one thing that Taxpayer can’t do, it’s read minds of people they have never met yet Taxpayer thinks he can do that and tell readers what another person believes. For example, Stuart believes that the constitution gives the state legislatures the authority to establish district boundaries so long as the districts so established have equal roughly equal population and no minority racial, ethnic, etc. group is deprived of representation. That inevitably results in the majority party drawing the lines so that members of minority party are crowded into a few partisan ghettos like Nashville and Memphis here in Tennessee. That’s OK. It’s done, of course, by both parties and if the voters don’t like the government they have they eventually vote the governing party out, the opposition in, and the lines are redrawn. No big deal, most of were around when Tennessee went from resolutely Democrat to its current blissful Republican, but to Taxpayer EVERYTHING is a big deal.

      Lest any tourist from a foreign country stumble on this forum I assure you, we don’t have concentration camps full of people who have been dragged off because of voter “suppression.” What American leftists call “voter suppression” is simply common sense requirements that ask people to register to vote in order to show they are a U. S. citizen or permanent resident eligible to vote and show a photo ID and signature affirming that they are the person registered. Now, to be sure, it is understandable that leftists don’t like all of this affirmation stuff because a lot of their voters aren’t terribly bright or responsible so following any rules are a bit burdensome and they have all kinds of schemes so that when people are caught cheating if you want to make yourself a little money, trust me, bet on the perp being a Democratic operative and you can have yourself a nice supplemental income.

      Finally, I invite the reader to go to Heritage.org/voterfraud wherein you will find a database containing 1,298 cases of “Proven instances of voter fraud” from a sampling of recent cases “. . .intended to demonstrate the vulnerabilities in the election system and the many ways in which fraud is committed.” I also invite all to keep an eye on the liberal’s constant taking election officials to court in a desperate attempt to stop any and all reasonable attempts to make our elections fair and lawful.

      Mindreading, ignorance of facts, authoritarian in his policy prescriptions, and inexplicable in his refusal to consistently capitalize proper nouns the way all of us were taught to do very early in even government grade schools or give people the common courtesy of spelling even their relatively short names correctly such are the many wonders of Taxpayer. Truly a liberal’s liberal.

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    It IS about the money:
    @GovBillLee :
    Tennessee’s response continues to be one of the most targeted in the country and a continued State of Emergency ensures we have access to additional federal funds, ensure our health care capacity is stable and loosen restrictions that would otherwise hinder our response time.

    See he is #LeeTheTyrant

  • Avatar
    Eddie White says:

    James, I don’t think that dog is going to hunt. I have found Gov Lee to to be reasonable and measured in his approach to the pandemic. Despite some of the haranguing by the more extreme blog posters, I think most Tennesseans will agree.

  • Avatar
    Michael Lottman says:

    There is no way to address all the craziness contained in some of the above comments. It is a terrible mistake to drop the face mask mandate, at least until a vaccine for COVID-19 is approved and made available to everyone. The pandemic is not over, and there is strong evidence of a second wave in England and many other European countries (also Israel), not to mention increases in new cases in more than half the states in the U.S. Counties are going to need to reinstate face masks and probably do a lot more than that before a vaccine is developed and administered, which is likely to be another senseless struggle. And the vaccine alone may not be enough.

    • Avatar
      Stuart I. Anderson says:

      The vaccine most definitely will not be enough. It never is for a flu vaccine as almost all of us who get the flu vaccine every year and more times than not get the flu. We simply cannot shut this economy down again unless it’s absolutely necessary to avoid our hospitals becoming overwhelmed, and then for only as short a period as possible.

      People under 60, and certainly under 50, have little to fear from this flu. Those are the people who make the economy go. Those are the people and their children who should be left to go on with their life. Those of us who are older should hunker down and pray for vaccines and better therapeutics and deviate to take more risk as each of us decides what level of risk we are willing to take. That’s the approach for a free people in a free country.

      • Avatar
        MARLE says:

        And what if we don’t hunker down (need we recite the list of stupid, self-destructive things people do) and cost Medicare about a Million dollars for the hospitalization that may lead to recovery and a debilitated and costly remainder of their life? The libertarian in me rails against this “do what you like and the rest of us will pick up the pieces AND the bill”.

        • Avatar
          Stuart I. Anderson says:

          The libertarian answer is that individuals should have private insurance so the taxpayers won’t be picking up the bill. Certainly a great libertarian like you is not sympathetic toward the left using the benefits which they have the government bestow on the citizenry as the wedge by which they can control the behavior of the citizenry? No, the problem is using the government to provide welfare for anyone other than those relatively few who are truly unable to provide for themselves.

          • Avatar
            MARLE says:

            Should have? SHOULD HAVE???? And what pray tell is going to ensure that they do have “private” insurance when they choose NOT to hunker down? Medicare age people are the ones racking up the largest bills from Covid. How reckless is it to contract Covid when you are destined to be a “high ticket” victim.

            The cost to those of us who pay Medicare Tax on every dime of earned income or a Net Investment Tax on cap gain are not amused at those who feel free to expose themselves to a disease they can not possibly pay the bill for.

          • Avatar
            Stuart I. Anderson says:

            Once you provide people with welfare you set yourself on a road of government control over the lives of recipients which I generally oppose philosophically. Do you want to establish laws requiring Medicare enrollees to hunker down? If not, those Medicare enrollees who want to risk their lives or risk suffering permanent debilitating infirmities from contracting the Chinese flu by failing to hunker down have got us, I’m afraid. I choose to believe they are few in numbers relatively speaking.

          • Avatar
            MARLE says:

            No, Stuart I don’t want to mandate Medicare aged people stay at home. I WANT them to be responsible. Morally you don’t have the right to obligate me to pay for things that were preventable.

            You don’t, in my libertarian thinking, have the right to WASTE 14 years of free public education and then make me give you welfare, food stamps, housing b/c you are illiterate.

            You don’t have the right to drink or drug to the ruination of your life so I have to support your 5 children through adulthood.

            And you, if you are one of the “vulnerable” don’t have the right to be cavalier about your health in a Covid Crisis so that I am handed a 1M bill .

  • Avatar
    Donna Locke says:

    Well, the number of convictions for voter fraud means nothing. One can’t be convicted of voter fraud if it was inadvertent or the voter claims it was an innocent mistake, s/he can’t understand English, didn’t know the rules, etc., and if it can’t be proven otherwise. Georgia TV and newspaper investigations showed without any doubt that noncitizens had registered to vote and had voted in Georgia elections. Quite a number, enough to potentially swing some elections. Elections in California have definitely been swung by illegal noncitizen voting.

    • Avatar
      MARLE says:

      Semantics and statistics. A vicious combination of the 2 can distort almost anything. And why has no one pushed back against the benign stats on voter fraud without someone pointing out that voter FRAUD is not one and the same as casing an illegal vote?

      • Avatar
        Donna Locke says:

        It’s fraudulent for a noncitizen to claim to be a citizen and then register and vote. So it all depends on what fraud means to anyone.

        • Avatar
          MARLE says:

          But you said that voter Fraud is a statistic that manifests only when one is convicted of casting an illegal vote. It doesn’t count the ones who claim a “mistake”. So voter fraud is statistically low where casting an illegal vote may be much much higher.

          Isn’t that the point embedded in your first comment about what is and what isn’t in that Voter Fraud statistic?

          • Avatar
            Donna Locke says:

            Voter fraud actually encompasses a number of acts. I focus on immigration, so I look at related things. Acting on false claims of citizenship is, you know, fraud. Try to follow along.

        • Avatar
          MARLE says:

          Fraud, unlike beauty, is not up to the beholder. It has defined parameters. Claims of fraud which are on the lips of every media person and every politician is not limited to non-citizens.

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  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Yeah, those nasty old vaccines never work- just ask anyone who is walking around with Small Pox.

    • Avatar
      MARLE says:

      The small pox vaccine which has undergone many improvements since its inception over 100 yrs ago is about 95% effective. The strain of upper respiratory FLU vaccine that we offered in 2018 had about a 60% effectiveness. Annual Flu shots are necessary; annual Small Pox vaccines Are NOT.

      To compare the vaccine against small pox with a vaccine against coronaviruses which colds, the annual flu and Covid are is not reasonable. But coming according to you i suppose it makes sense. Oh, boy!

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