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Will residents wear masks?
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Warren County’s second mask mandate went into effect on Friday. Will local residents do a better job of abiding by the executive order this time around?

“It’s all about choices,” said County Executive Jimmy Haley, who issued Executive Order No. 3 after a unanimous vote by the county’s COVID-19 Preparedness Response Team. “You’ve got to have faith in people wanting to do the right thing.”

Warren County’s first mask mandate wasn’t roundly embraced. In stores and restaurants that tried for strict facemask enforcement, the result was often a store employee getting verbally abused by a customer who refused to wear a face covering.

The county’s initial mask mandate was ended by Haley on Oct. 1. A month and a half later, the mask mandate is back due to soaring COVID cases in Warren County and around the nation.

Over a 14-day period ending on Thursday, Nov. 12, Warren County averaged 25.1 new COVID cases per day. Warren County currently has 314 active COVID cases as of Friday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Even with those daunting numbers, local residents have been reluctant to wear a mask. At elementary basketball games, a glance around the gym on a typical night might show five or six people wearing facemasks out of a crowd of 100.

Warren County athletic director Todd Willmore said he discussed this issue with Director of School Grant Swallows on Friday and they hope to develop a plan to address it this coming week.

As for facemask enforcement outside of the school system, McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton said his department will take a “commonsense approach” to the mask mandate “focusing on providing information and guidance.”

“It is expected minimal enforcement action will be required,” said Denton.

At the Smartt Assembly of God Craft Fair on Saturday, it look like about roughly half of the people in attendance were honoring the request to wear a face covering.

“There’s been pretty good compliance and we’re encouraging it,” said Smartt Assembly of God preacher Chuck Catalfu. A sign on the front door asked visitors to wear a facemask upon entering and free masks and hand sanitizer were available just inside the door. 

Rising COVID cases has forced the school system to go to virtual learning at WCHS and WCMS until Nov. 30. According to the latest health report issued by Warren County Schools on Friday, there are 57 students in isolation. That means they have tested positive for COVID-19.

Additionally, there are 731 students in quarantine, which means they have not tested positive, but have come in close contact with someone who has.

Comparing the number of confirmed cases with the number in quarantine, the numbers show one infected person has the potential to transmit the virus to 12.8 others – and that’s just at school.