BY SABRINA BATES
WEAKLEY COUNTY (August 28) – Shortly after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced in an Executive Order, an extension allowing county and mayors to issue and extend a mask-wearing mandate, the office of Weakley County Mayor Jake Bynum reported his second Executive Order this year.
That Executive Order extends a countywide mask mandate in public places.
On July 31, 2020, Lee signed Executive Order 55, declaring that a state of emergency continues to exist in Tennessee, and continues to strongly urge all persons to wear cloth face coverings or other similar coverings in public settings where being in close proximity to others is anticipated, and through Executive Order 55, extends the delegated authority to county mayors in the 89 counties that do not have a locally-run health department (including Weakley County) to issues requiring the wearing of face coverings within their jurisdictions, subject to certain limitations, for the purpose of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
One week prior to the reopening of Weakley County Schools and students beginning classes on the UT Martin campus, Bynum issued the first Executive Order, mandating mask-wearing in public spaces. Bynum said the number of active cases in Weakley County between August 1 through August 9, 2020 increased by 222. When interviewed by The Enterprise, Bynum said at least one in 50 people in Weakley County have had or have COVID-19 since the monitoring of the global health pandemic in March.
The county mayor said the proper wearing of masks helps to slow the spread of COVID-19. The first Executive Order for the county was set to expire August 29, 2020. After Gov. Lee extended his EO authorizing mayors to mandate mask-wearing during the state of emergency, Bynum’s office extended the countywide mask mandate through 11:59 p.m. on September 30, 2020, unless rescinded, continued or renewed. Businesses are asked to post signage and enforce mask-wearing in their facilities.
The same exceptions apply to the county’s second Executive Order:
- Within a residence or automobile, unless transporting others for hire;
- Children 12 and under;
- Those who have trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition or bona fide medical or health-related reason for not wearing a face covering;
- Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
- While eating or drinking or while seated in a restaurant;
- While outdoors, unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate six-foot social distancing from others outside of a person’s household;
- While working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside of the substantially maintained;
- In situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk;
- While in a house of worship unless required by that house of worship, but wearing a covering in such location is strongly encouraged;
- While in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged.
Mayor Bynum explained he knows there is a large majority of the population who become deathly sick if they contract COVID-19, but he was elected to serve 100-percent of Weakley County, not just 99 percent. He added the proper wearing of face coverings allows businesses to remain open and schools to offer the in-person, traditional classroom settings. Students attending Weakley County Schools are required to wear cloth face coverings upon entering and exiting the school buildings, in the hallways where social-distancing is not possible and in some classrooms that do not have the space for adequate social distancing.
Henry County Mayor Brent Greer also extended the countywide mask mandate for Henry County Friday. Greer issued the mandate beginning August 5, 2020. It is set to expire, unless rescinded or extended, September 6, 2020.