While Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron announced Monday that the county will not impose a mask mandate, the county is promoting a campaign that encourages businesses to require workers and customers to wear masks.
Ketron announced a new initiative called #RutherfordResponsible. The campaign refers to wearing a mask in public when social distancing is impractical, along with other measures recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ketron said in a statement.
“We are asking the businesses in our communities to adopt this initiative by posting ‘RutherfordResponsible’ signage in their windows or other prominent places in their establishments. This will identify that their business requires masks for employees and patrons. Much like the orders in other counties, we realize that there will be exceptions such as eating and drinking and outdoor activities that allow for proper social distancing.”
Ketron said he and county staff members are in the process of developing a policy requiring masks for county employees that interact with the public on a regular basis. Under the policy, the general public will also be required to wear masks in county office buildings. More information will be released on the policy when available.
On Friday, Lee signed Executive Order 54 to grant county mayors in 89 counties the authority to issue local mask requirements in the event of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases. With that, the authority to issue an order in Rutherford County is Ketron’s.
Earlier last week, Lee said a number of local governments asked him whether they might be allowed to issue mandates to residents about wearing masks in response to the growing cases of COVID-19. Rutherford County’s growth rate was mentioned more than once by Lee and Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, but they did not say if Rutherford officials had made such a request.
Representatives for the county and each city were asked if they had made such a request. Each local government said they had not made the request of the governor.
Ketron said in his statement he is not ready to mandate masks for the entire county.
“I believe in our citizens. I am confident that we can do this without forcing their hand,” said Ketron.
Ketron is partnering with local organizations such as the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Murfreesboro to gain support from local businesses.
Ketron said he has the support of the Rutherford County Mayors’ Caucus.
“We know our citizens want to get back to a state of normalcy as soon as possible, but we cannot accomplish that without their assistance with taking personal responsibility for their health,” said City of La Vergne Mayor Jason Cole.
Smyrna Mayor Mary Esther Reed said, “We have faith that if enough of our businesses join together in this effort, our citizens will follow suit.”
Reed said that if citizens feel uncomfortable at an establishment, the customer has the right to not do business with them.
Eagleville Mayor Chad Leeman said, “Likewise, businesses have the ability to refuse service to someone who does not adhere to mask requirements for their property.”
Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland said, “We want to do our best not to have another shutdown. That is why it is so important that citizens and businesses take these protective measures so seriously. Many small businesses have indicated that they will not survive another shutdown.”