On Monday, Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman reissued a county-wide mask mandate which will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

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Huffman cited the critical point of ICU bed capacity and the current spike in cases as contributing factors. In a press release, he said he recognizes that there are many varying opinions on this issue, but believes that asking Tipton Countians to wear a face covering in indoor public places, and in outdoor public places where distancing is not possible, is a necessary safety measure in order that our local businesses and schools may remain open. 

“Allowing the current spike in cases to continue jeopardizes our businesses, government and court operations, schools, and way of life and this simple measure can help to protect our citizens during this unprecedented time,” Huffman said. “Additionally, and this is vitally important, hospital capacity, particularly ICU bed capacity is at a critical point now.  Locally, Baptist Hospital-Tipton has transferred ICU patients to Georgia, Kentucky, and Central Mississippi because no ICU beds were available in our region.  Jackson General Hospital in Madison County, Tennessee is no longer taking transfers to its hospital in Jackson, Tennessee. The lack of ICU capacity now affects not only COVID-19 patients, but other patients that need ICU care as well.  This capacity challenge cannot be ignored.”

Huffman was encouraged to reissue the mandate by the CEOs of the Baptist, Methodist, Regional One and St. Francis hospital systems.

Parker Harris, CEO, Baptist Memorial Hospital—Tipton said, “We saw the effectiveness of wearing masks and social distancing in the early summer when new cases declined by 56% and hospitalizations fell by 38 percent in just six weeks after Tennesseans widely practiced these important safety precautions. As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, it remains of the utmost importance that we continue to do these things to keep our community and neighbors safe and healthy.”

The county previous had a mask mandate from Aug. 4 to Sept. 30. The new mandate will be in effect through Jan. 31, 2021.

Tipton County Schools Superintendent Dr. John Combs urged community members to continue with preventative measures that would help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Our current facial covering guidelines require students and staff to wear masks in areas of the school, including classrooms and buses, where social distancing is not possible, but we know this isn’t enough,” he said. “Our plea to parents and community members is that you help by following similar guidelines when you are out in our community.  Since most of our positive cases and quarantines are stemming from outside our school buildings, your help is absolutely needed to keep our kids in school.”

The executive order states masks are required within all publicly-accessible areas of commercial business establishments, in public outdoor areas where social distancing of a least six feet cannot be maintained, and within the publicly-accessible areas of business offices where there is direct interaction with the public and social distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained.

Exceptions to this include:

  1. Any person who cannot safely wear a face covering because he/she has trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition or another bona fide medical or health-related reason for not wearing a face covering;
  2. Anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance;
  3. Persons in a private residence;
  4. Persons who are outdoors, unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate 6-foot social distancing from others outside of the person’s household;
  5. Persons while eating or drinking;
  6. Persons in a place of worship (unless a face covering is required by the place of worship), although persons in a place or worship are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19;
  7. Persons within private motor vehicles, unless such vehicle is being used for public transportation or a vehicle for hire;
  8. Persons working under conditions where appropriate social distancing of at least six feet from others outside the person’s household is substantially maintained;
  9. Persons present in government facilities, or on government premises, who shall be subject to the rules and regulations of the governmental entity operating the facility or premises.  Persons present in the public areas of all Tipton County government facilities will wear cloth or other face coverings, subject to the age and health restrictions outlined herein, and subject to number 11, below.  Other local governmental entities may issue their own directives regarding their facilities;
  10. Persons in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election; although such persons are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19;
  11. Persons who are engaging in strenuous exercise and/or physical activity, provided, however that such persons shall maintain six-foot social distancing when not wearing a face covering;
  12. Person for whom wearing a face covering would pose a safety or security risk.

On Monday, Tipton County reached 4,007 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and recorded two new deaths, bringing the cumulative total to 41. November was the deadliest month of the pandemic to date with 16 deaths and saw a record-high 1,250 confirmed cases. For more on COVID-19 and Tipton County, see our dashboard with daily updates.

Last month the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended jury trials through Jan. 31.

Click here to read the full executive order.