HUNTSVILLE — As the number of coronavirus cases in Scott County continues to rise, the local health department is urging residents to wear masks when in public places.
In a message shared via social media on Tuesday, the health department stated that “it is imperative we, as a community, take every precaution necessary to help slow the spread of Covid-19 in our community. As our cases in Scott County and Tennessee continue to rise, the Health Department strongly encourages everyone to wear a face mask when in public, to social distance of at least six feet from others, wash their hands frequently and stay home when sick to help continue our fight against the spread of Covid-19.”
The unsigned letter was distributed by Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals via Facebook.
Tibbals has also encouraged mask-wearing, and has teamed up with the Scott County Chamber of Commerce to initiate a “mask challenge” that offers prize drawings for people who are seen wearing masks in public.
Tuesday’s comments marked the first time the local health department has visibly waded into the fray to join the calls for mask-wearing.
As Dr. Nate Brennan, an Oneida podiatrist, pointed out in a comment on the mayor’s post, however, “Those are the exact same ‘strongly encouraged’ recommendations that were advised six months ago. Maybe we need to try something a little different?”
The renewed focus on masks isn’t just coming from the local weather. Last week, a White House coronavirus task force urged that Tennessee issue a mask mandate immediately to curb the spread of coronavirus, with numbers surging across the Volunteer State. That plea appears to have fallen on deaf ears at the state capitol, however.
Governor Bill Lee has been reticent to issue a mask mandate, though he has given rural county mayors the authority to do so within their own jurisdictions. Most have chosen not to do so, instead taking Tibbals’ approach of urging mask-wearing rather than mandating it.
More than 300 people have been sickened by coronavirus in Scott County. And although most of them have recovered with only mild symptoms, nearly two dozen have been hospitalized and four have died.
There is currently more coronavirus circulating within the local community than at any other point during the pandemic. Scott County was up to 66 active cases of Covid-19 as of Tuesday, according to the TN Dept. of Health. That’s just short of the all-time high of 71, but the previous high came while the Dept. of Health was classifying patients as still sick, or active cases, for a longer period of time.
Statewide, there are more than 22,000 people currently sick with Covid-19, and hospitalizations have hit an all-time high. As of Tuesday, there were 1,259 people hospitalized across the state with coronavirus.