As COVID-19 cases continue to increase around the country, many states and counties have issued face mask mandates. Usually, these consist of a set of guidelines in which local governments tell their residents the instances where masks must be worn.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger issued a mandate that requires Hamilton County residents to wear a mask in most indoor settings with the exceptions of some restaurants and churches where a covering isn’t required. The rule exempts children under the age of 12 and people with certain verified respiratory conditions. If broken, the mandate can result in repercussions ranging from a “$50 fine up to 30 days in jail,” according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
As of this week, this mandate is effective July 10 through Sept.8. The amount of time, however, is subject to an extension.
As Southern’s campus reopened on July 13, the school also enforced the use of masks in all of its buildings and for larger social gatherings with the exception of meetings outside.
Both mandates came at a time when Hamilton County, the fourth largest populated county in Tennessee, recorded a spike in COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday, July 15, 114 new cases were reported in the county, according to the Hamilton County Health Department. The mask mandates are expected to help decrease the number of potential COVID-19 cases.
“Widespread use of face coverings — research shows — reduces the spread of infected respiratory droplets,” said Coppinger in an interview with Channel 3. “It might not prevent the spread of the disease, but it will help avoid further economic damage.”
To prevent further spread, many health centers and health care facilities are giving away free masks in order to help Hamilton County residents.
Although there have been complaints of people not wearing masks, there have been no instances of people going to jail due to not wearing one, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
“We will not be responding to every call of someone not wearing a mask or imposing citations to every offender,” said Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond. “The goal is safety, not sending people to jail.”