Tipton County’s mask mandate, which has been in place since Aug. 5, will end on Wednesday, Sept. 30.

County executive Jeff Huffman, who is what other counties call a county mayor, made the announcement Monday.

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“Tipton County’s numbers continue to improve overall,” he said via email. “The county is up to 1,836 confirmed positive cases and 19 deaths. The positivity rate for the county is below the 10 percent threshold and is holding currently at 8.5 percent.”

The Tennessee State Data Center, which uses the COVID-19 statistics reported by the Tennessee Department of Health, each day calculates the positivity rate for every county. Tipton County’s overall positivity rate is 9.4 percent. According to the TSDC, the positivity rate for the five-day period of Sept. 24-28 is 7.6 percent. The prior five-day period was 10.6 percent.

Active cases Monday were 155, down considerably from last month after the state changed the way in which it classifies inactive cases. Cases were once reported as inactive/recovered 21 days after a confirmed positive, but that threshold has been lowered to 14 days.

“The number of active cases has dropped dramatically from between 300 and 400 to about 150 active cases,” Huffman said. “One footnote, however, the CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health have changed the definition and the methodology of some of the data. That makes it very difficult to compare ‘apples to apples.’  But clearly, conditions are better.”

Huffman cautions “we are not out of the woods by a long shot,” though.

” …The numbers have improved. We know by now that conditions can change quickly. But based on the data, I do not plan to renew the face covering mandate passed Sept. 30.”

He continued to encourage the recommended precautions be taken.

“I cannot emphasize this enough, I strongly, strongly urge everyone to continue to practice social distancing, wear a face covering when in public around other people, wash your hands frequently, and stay home if you’re feeling sick. The virus is still out there. These measures are our only defense now.”

Huffman, like Tennessee’s other county mayors, was granted the authority to issue mandates through executive orders signed by Gov. Bill Lee in July and August. That order ends Thursday.

Masks in schools 

Tipton County Schools also requires masks be worn by students and staff and that will not be changing just yet, said Director of Schools Dr. John Combs.

“We do not plan on lifting our mandate in the schools quite yet, but may revisit after Fall Break. Social distancing and wearing face coverages when around others are still good defensive steps. Our goal continues to be getting all our kids back in school.”

Fall break is scheduled for Oct. 13-16.

At last report, approximately 29 percent of students are distance learning. The remaining 71 percent attend classes face-to-face four days per week and participate in distance learning on Fridays.

Risk and transmission in Tipton County and Tennessee 

Research centers at universities all over the country monitor COVID-19 data to evaluate risk and transmission.

Per the TSDC, Tipton County’s mean transmission rate is 1.04. This is in the yellow zone, which shows the second-lowest level of transmission (between less than 1 and 1.1), and means every infected person will likely infect 1.04 more on average.

With a seven-day moving average of 24.8 daily new cases per 100,000 people Tipton County is barely in the orange zone on Harvard Global Health Institute and Brown School of Public Health’s Path to Zero, which shows key metrics for COVID suppression. The red zone, which is the level of highest risk, begins at 25.

Tennessee, which for more than a month has ranked in the top 10 in the country on the same tool, is ranked 16th in the nation today with a 23.1 seven-day average.

Tipton County is in the White House Task Force’s yellow zone which means data for the week prior showed new cases were between 10-100 per 100,000 population, and a diagnostic test positive result between 5-10%, or one of those two conditions and one condition qualifying as being in the red zone.