Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter said he will not issue a mask mandate now, but said it remains an option if residents do not reduce large gatherings.
Porter said Thursday night that the county’s growing numbers are due to baby and wedding showers, birthday parties, school reunions and other private gatherings. He said these events can quickly become super spreaders because people let their guards down.
“Right now, these private social gatherings are our number one obstacle in the fight against COVID-19,” Porter said. “So for the next few weeks at least, I’m asking you to please limit these top gatherings and getting together in large groups. If everyone would do this, I think we would see our numbers drop dramatically over the next few weeks
Porter said he’s increasingly concerned about the stress on Cookeville Regional Medical Center especially as flu season approaches. He said personal responsibility is the key to getting COVID numbers under control again.
As for a mask mandate, Porter said he does not want to put such a protocol in place. Porter said his study of those communities that have employed such mandates have seen more negative ramifications than positive ones.
“We continue to see the metro areas across Tennessee, but numbers, despite my mandates, closures, curfews and other measures, increase,” Porter said. “I’ve also seen the challenges these counties have had in enforcing my mandates. Not only are these mandates extremely difficult to enforce by law, but they also tend to bring on aggressive behavior among fellow citizens who decide to take enforcement into their own hands. There’s also a tendency for people who are currently wearing a mask voluntarily to stop if enforcement is attempting mandates, tend to create an unhealthy division in a community.”
“I, for one, don’t want to issue a mandate unless I absolutely have to. But please know I will if it comes to that point.”
Putnam County has tested more than 40,000 people, the second highest rate in the state based on county populations. Porter said it’s important that people continue to test so that cases can be discovered.
“The only thing short of an effective vaccine that is going to change our situation for the better is a change in the behavior of our citizens,” Porter said. “I strongly urge all of us to take a look at our own behavior and practices and ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to slow the spread of COVID.”
“If we don’t, I promise you, things will get worse before they get better.”