Shawn Brewer, an employee of Jenny’s Beauty Supply in Gallatin, restocks crochet hair at the store. JOSH CROSS 

Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt recently extended a countywide order requiring face coverings or masks be worn in public for another month in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The mandate, which was scheduled to expire Monday, Aug. 3, has been extended until Aug. 29 at 11:50 p.m. The amended order also strongly encourages local education agencies, schools and institutions of higher education to implement a policy requiring the use of face coverings by students and staff.

Sumner County middle and high school students along with all staff are required to wear face coverings while at school, according to a statement released by Sumner County Schools on Saturday. Elementary students are encouraged to wear face coverings while at school.

“This (extension) is based on the science of healthcare professionals and their advice to me,” Holt said Monday. “They’re telling me that this mandatory mask mandate is working across our county, more people are wearing masks and it’s slowing the rate of infection.”

Within the last two weeks there have been 673 new coronavirus cases across Sumner County, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Health. The county is now averaging 48 new cases per day – an average of 14 fewer daily cases than during the previous 14-day period.

There had been a total of 3,178 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 reported countywide along with 70 deaths and 1,760 recoveries as of Monday afternoon. Statewide, there had been 109,325 confirmed cases, 1,055 confirmed deaths and 70,878 recoveries.

Sumner County Emergency Medical Services Chief Greg Miller attributes the decline in new local cases to the widespread use of masks in public.

“Every time we’re out in the community we’re seeing more and more people who are adhering to the mandate,” Miller said. “It’s helping because we’re limiting the ability for the virus to spread from person to person.”

According to the order, face coverings should not be placed on children younger than two years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Face coverings also do not have to be worn within a person’s residence or automobile, unless transporting others for hire; by children 12 years old or younger; while eating or drinking, while outdoors, unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate social distancing from others outside the person’s household; while working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside the person’s household is substantially maintained; in situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk; while in a house of worship; or while in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election. 

Gov. Bill Lee also extended an executive order that gives 89 county mayors across the state the authority to issue their own local face covering requirements. The remaining six counties with locally run health departments – Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby and Sullivan – already had the authority to issue similar mandates.

Anyone who does not comply with order in Sumner County could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which can be punishable by a maximum $2,500 fine and up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, according to the Sumner County District Attorney’s Office.

Holt said he hopes additional extensions of the mask mandate will not be necessary and added that issuing the requirement “has been a very tough decision to make.”

“Everybody needs to understand that they need to be responsible and make sure they do what they need to do so we can contain this thing and slow it down until a vaccine comes out, so we don’t have to shut down businesses (again) and go backwards,” Holt said. “We’ve really got to work together.”

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