TN Strong masks

Mask wearing is gaining steam across Tennessee and Williamson County as an increasing number of businesses are requiring customers to wear them and companies and organizations are using them to promote their brand.

Mark Ezell, commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, told a virtual audience attending Tuesday morning’s Breakfast with the Mayors that the state has recently launched a campaign known as the Tennessee Strong Mask Movement. With the number of coronavirus cases having spiked across the state over the past several weeks, it’s an initiative that allows for retailers, universities, teams, nonprofits and other entities to have their brand logos placed on face coverings for sale to the public. 

“People want to wear brands,” Ezell said at Franklin Tomorrow’s summer Breakfast that was anchored by Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson and Franklin Mayor Ken Moore. “ ‘Joe’ and ‘Sally’ might not want to wear masks, but if they can wear a brand of their university, the Titans or their community, they’ll be more willing if we can make that mask available for $3 or $4."

“We were hoping to get 10 companies or communities to give 10,000 masks each, and now we’re at 70 companies and almost 700,000 branded masks that are out there. We think we’ll get to almost a million masks. And now that ‘Joe’ has that cap or that T-shirt, maybe ‘Joe’ will be more encouraged to wear that mask.”

Ezell said 22 counties across the state have enacted a mask mandate, including Williamson, and “we’re seeing a trend line that is flattening for those groups that are wearing masks, and we’re trying to get more masks every day to be required.”

However, he added, Gov. Bill Lee doesn’t want to set a statewide mandate.

“The governor believes it has to be at the local level because local is where most people trust [the government],” Ezell said. 

In Williamson County, the number of active COVID-19 cases has declined slightly over the past week or so. Monday afternoon’s count stood at 1,435, down 73 from Sunday and down 67 over the past seven days.

“The county mask mandate from earlier in the month has really helped,” said Dr. Andy Russell, chief medical officer at Williamson Medical Center who was at Breakfast with the Mayors via Zoom. “We’re starting to see the rate of new cases is slowing down.”

Moore has been stressing the importance of wearing a mask all summer, especially after case numbers began increasing markedly in June. He said the mandate is starting to make a difference.

“I think that’s strictly because we are seeing a lot of compliance in the community, and we’re seeing national companies that are saying you have to wear a mask to come into our store, employees wearing masks, customers wearing masks,” Moore said.

“We’re still seeing people that think it’s an infringement on their rights to ask them to wear a mask. But if you think about our health care workers who are exposed every single day and the risk they’re taking, it’s a small price to pay.” 

Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden was also a guest at Monday’s event, and gave a summary on the district’s reopening plans for when schools start the 2020-21 year Friday, Aug. 7.

Schools will open with kids through second grade going to school on campus and students in third and above starting the semester remotely.

This protocol is what is known as the medium spread risk of the coronavirus, meaning the youngest students will attend classes on campus and older ones will learn remotely for at least the first two weeks of the school year.

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