Cumberland County will not issue a mask mandate, County Mayor Allen Foster announced Monday. 

“Personally, going forward, I will be more diligent about wearing my mask when I’m out and unable to properly social distance,” Foster said. “Although I will not be mandating the use of masks, I am encouraging all Cumberland Countians to use a mask or face covering following the Governor’s guidelines, to make sure to socially distance and to wash your hands frequently. You don’t have to. You may not believe it will help. But I believe it’s worth a try.”

Gov. Bill Lee on Friday empowered county mayors to require masks or face coverings to be worn in public. The order applies to 89 counties with health departments operated by the state, which includes Cumberland County. 

Counties with a mask mandate include Williamson County, Sumner County, Montgomery County, Robertson County and Sevier County.

The other six counties have county-operated health departments. Several of those counties had already issued mask mandates. These include Davidson County, Shelby County, Hamilton County and Knox County.

Foster said Cumberland County continues to have a low number of COVID-19 cases.

On Wednesday, there were 55 active active cases in the county, with 193 positive cases since mid-March. There have been four officially reported deaths in the county.

To date, 134 people have recovered. Sixteen people, an increase of two from the day before, have required hospitalization.

There have been 7,461 negative tests. 

Foster noted the issue of face coverings or cloth masks has sparked a variety of opinions. 

“People in my family and in my church don’t always agree on this issue, and that’s OK,” he said. “We all need to respect those with differing views. We are a community.” 

Foster added everyone has the freedom to choose how they react to the pandemic, and the freedom to stay away from businesses they feel are unsafe. 

But he said he intends to wear a mask when unable to socially distance.

“Why, you might ask?” he said. “Well, why not? 

“If the experts that believe wearing masks helps to prevent the spread are correct, then we may just avoid another shutdown or keep a family member from getting sick. If those that believe masks are ineffective are correct, what have we lost?”

Foster says he makes use of the Tennessee Department of Health data — the same data made available to the public each day at 2 p.m.

“Detailed information at the county and community level is not shared with us by the state,” Foster said. “I don’t know where those that are positive live, or how they got sick.”

He will continue to monitor the situation. 

Tennessee reported its largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases Wednesday as the state’s total climbed to nearly 56,000 cases since the health crisis began in March.

The Tennessee Department of Health reported 2,472 of the 29,739 tests reported on Wednesday were positive. The state added 909 recovered patients. 

To date, 685 Tennesseans have died from the virus and 3,023 have been hospitalized.

A group of physicians urged Lee to issue a statewide mask mandate and make the state’s business guidelines, the Tennessee Pledge, enforceable. 

The state’s case count increased 121% over the month of June as businesses reopened. 

Cumberland County had 37 active cases on June 1, with 116 total cases. 

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and even be fatal.

Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said the growth in coronavirus infections is hitting both urban and rural areas.

"Please listen carefully: This is not the time to get back to normal," Piercey said. “We're all experiencing what we call quarantine fatigue. But I can guarantee you this virus is not getting tired.”

The Cumberland County Health Department, 1503 S. Main St., offers free drive-thru testing Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

You do not need a doctor’s order or appointment. Anyone can be tested, regardless of symptoms. 

The health department also has free cloth masks for anyone who wants one. Stop by Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to pick one up for each member of your household.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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