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County mandates facemasks
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Warren County Executive Jimmy Haley announces the countywide mask mandate during a press conference Thursday.

After months of urging citizens to wear masks, County Executive Jimmy Haley issued an executive order Thursday mandating masks “for all residents and visitors in settings where close proximity to others is anticipated and especially where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

The facemask mandate is now in effect.

Haley said the Warren County COVID Command Team met Wednesday and unanimously agreed upon a mandatory facemask order for Warren County. Haley acknowledged the decision to issue the mandate probably won’t be popular, but stressed it is necessary.

“Even though many may not agree with the team’s decision, it is the right and responsible thing to do,” said Haley.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases reached 567 in Warren County as of Thursday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

When asked about the number of COVID patients at the hospital, Saint Thomas River Park CEO Dale Humphrey said, “It’s been steadily going up for a while and we’re hoping this will help it start to go down.”

Humphrey added, “This is a gutsy thing to do for a politician, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Haley said the facemask requirement has become a necessity.

“We have to take the next step and be ready for action,” said Haley. “Both city of McMinnville and Warren County law enforcement officials will promote the use of masks and will issue verbal warnings when there is a disregard for the use of masks and social distancing guidelines established by the CDC and public Health Department.”

“Just a reminder to everyone,” said Haley. “Law enforcement is there to encourage responsible behavior as they do each and every day. We must respect the duties of all of our officers. We need to show them support.”

The executive order urges businesses to adopt mandatory facemask policies for both employees and customers and to enforce the countywide mandates for the safety of all concerned.

The executive order includes exemptions for the following:

• Within one’s own residence or automobile

• By a child 2 years or younger

• By someone who has trouble breathing due to underlying health conditions or another bona fide medical or health-related reason for not wearing a face covering

• Unless required in a qualified health facility, by someone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance

• While eating or drinking

• While outdoors unless the person cannot maintain proper social distancing

• While working under conditions where social distancing can be maintained

• In situations where wearing a mask poses a safety or security risk

• While in a house of worship, unless that it is required by its leadership or encouraged for the safety of those in worship

• While in a voting site for the purpose of exercising your right to vote, but wearing of masks is strongly encouraged

“The sooner we grasp the seriousness of this crisis, the sooner we will return to normal,” said Haley.