Ottinger declines to mandate masks in Cocke County

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee earlier this week announced the decision as to whether or not to mandate face coverings has been given to county mayors in the 89 counties with a state-affiliated health department.

“This has not been an easy decision nor as you know a hasty one,” says Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger. “I have weighed all aspects of the issue, spoken with health professionals, asked for citizen feedback, heard from businesses and carefully considered how best to address the COVID-19 pandemic. I have made the decision that I will not require that face coverings be worn in public. I do not have a right to mandate an individual’s decision regarding their health. It is an overreach of authority from the government and an individual’s health should be left up to them. I can tell you that your federal, state or local government cannot mandate, order or will this virus away.”

Ottinger says the governor’s order specifically says any local order or measures issued by a county mayor be consistent with CDC guidance.

“I have checked with the CDC, the U.S. Surgeon General and the Tennessee Department of Health, all qualified medical entities, and none of them have required face coverings.”

The mayor does call on Cocke County residents to “make a concentrated effort to put our safety and the safety of others at the forefront. There is not a consensus on anything related to this pandemic from how numbers are calculated, to the origin of it, or to rights of an individual versus public health rights. There is however, one constant in this situation and that is that we are 100 percent in this together and together our cases will rise or together we can assist in slowing the spread. With that said, I strongly encourage and respectfully ask that everyone who can and will to please wear a mask in public. I ask that businesses consider special hours for people who are wearing masks. I implore that everyone, residents and visitors alike, do all that they can to mitigate the spread of the virus. I will continue to monitor our cases, which are rising daily, and adjust course and speed as necessary.”

And the mayor adds, “There has never been a better time to ‘Love thy Neighbor’ and you can do so by wearing a mask.”