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City approves resolution
urging facemasks1.jpg
Walmart will be requiring the wearing of face coverings effective this Monday. Kara Harsh, shopping on Thursday, says she has been voluntarily wearing one since March. McMinnville officials are urging everyone to cover up when they are out and about. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

While some politicians are sparring over the topic of facemasks, McMinnville officials are taking a stand in favor of wearing them.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night encouraging everyone to wear face coverings in public, as well as encouraging businesses owners to adopt policies requiring face coverings, during the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic.

 “I would just like to see the city speak in one voice,” said Alderman Mike Neal, who presented the measure for consideration. “Every day I talk to people about their thoughts about wearing masks. I believe it has been scientifically proven that masks and face coverings do help in preventing the spread. At least that’s the implications of the medical community.”

Neal says the main argument he’s heard is people’s rights not to wear facemasks.

“I agree. You do have that right. This is not a mandate,” said Neal. “This is an encouragement. I think there comes a time when we have to yield our rights to do what’s beneficial to others. I think this encouragement for our citizens and people coming into our city is very important. It takes the focus off me and puts it on my neighbor.”

Health experts say evidence is clear that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Because the virus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and do not know they are infected, it’s important for everyone to wear a face covering in public, health officials say.

Neal says people who wear facemasks are saying, “I care about your health. If I’m carrying this disease, I don’t want you to get it.” He says people who do not wear masks are showing indifference and don’t care if they spread it.

God is not against people protecting themselves, Neal said.

“I’ve heard the arguments from the church community that wearing facemasks are a sign of a lack of faith,” said Neal. “God won’t bless us or we aren’t trusting in God. God is not against taking precautions and caring for our temple, which is our bodies.”

Mayor Ben Newman agreed. 

“I think encouraging this could be beneficial,” said Newman. “Our cases have gone up tremendously over the last couple of weeks. We’ve seen how this can be devastating to some of our community. It might not be devastating to all of our community, but I think in some way it touches everyone. I remember when it started, people would say ‘I don’t know anybody who has it, so it must not be that bad.’ People are starting to know people who have had it. The lightbulb comes on and they see that it’s real.”

Tuesday night’s decision was followed by a Wednesday announcement by Walmart and Sam’s Club that shoppers will be required to wear face coverings. The requirement takes effect this Monday, July 20. 

A press release by Dacona Smith, chief operating officer, Walmart U.S., and Lance de la Rosa, chief operating officer, Sam’s Club, says the reason behind the decision is the health and safety of associates, members and customers.  

Said the press release: “We know some people have differing opinions on this topic. We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC. We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of our customers and members in wearing face coverings to protect their safety and the safety of our associates.”

The release also stated, “Currently about 65 percent of our more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is some form of government mandate on face coverings. To help bring consistency across stores and clubs, we will require all shoppers to wear a face covering starting Monday, July 20. This will give us time to inform customers and members of the changes, post signage and train associates on the new protocols.”

To help ensure consistency with this new process, all stores will have a single entrance. 

Tennessee Gov. Bill gave county mayors authority to issue local mask requirements. That power fell to County Executive Jimmy Haley, who has yet to pass a mandate.