Brttain still mulling mask decision

Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain said Tuesday he is still mulling over the idea of a mask mandate after the governor granted county mayors the authority to issue such an order last week.

Brittain said he had a few meetings with other county mayors on Monday, one a Zoom meeting and the other by phone. He said he will have another meeting with mayors on Wednesday and will have more of a decision made by then.

At this point, though, he said he has been hearing from the public.

“I’ve been receiving emails and phone calls and it’s about 50/50,” he said.

The decision on whether to mandate face masks comes after the state labeled Hamblen County a hot spot for COVID-19 two weeks ago.

Over the last two days, Hamblen County saw 29 new positive tests, rising from 337 to 366. The number of active cases sits at 180. The amount of deaths, however, have remained unchanged at 4 since the outbreak began.

Those numbers show a slight decrease in the amount of tests positives compared to last week when some days the positive tests were nearly double each day.

But, Brittain said he is not putting stock that the virus is waning at this point.

“We have to look at it in 14-day increments,” he said.

Countywide, more people are wearing masks indoors in places such as the grocery stores and Walmart.

On Saturday, during the Fourth of July Celebration at Cherokee Park there were social distancing circle painted on the lawn of the amphitheater and most everyone sat within the circles. In some cases, where there were no circles, participants still spread out.

Jefferson County officials said Tuesday that county recorded its first fatality from COVID-19 over the weekend.

That brings the total number of deaths to 8 in the Lakeway Area since the pandemic first started in March.

Other county mayors are also seeking input from their constiuents.

Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger has asked for feedback from the community on the Cocke County COVID-19, Facebook site.

“I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether or not you would be in favor of the mandatory wearing of masks,” explains the mayor.

To share a comment on the issue, go to the Cocke County COVID-19 Facebook page.