To the Editor:
Early in July, Gov. Bill Lee issued Executive Order 54, providing county mayors the authority to issue mask requirements in public spaces with exceptions.
I applaud Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron for mandating masks effective Wednesday, July 22. Studies have shown that when everyone wears a mask, virus transmission can be reduced by 95 percent.
This is a badly needed mandate, but this measure lasts only until the governor’s order expires Aug. 3. The number of cases of COVID-19 have risen significantly over the last few weeks, and the number will continue to rise until we are able to combat this pandemic successfully.
Sadly, since we have learned about the possibility of a deadly virus pandemic coming to Tennessee, some of our state and local elected officials have downplayed the threat and neglected to prepare for any damage this might have on our communities.
Gov. Lee and the state legislature had ample opportunity to push for legislation designed to combat the pandemic or to provide relief funding to help Tennesseans during this crisis, yet they failed to do so multiple times.
The General Assembly also could have focused its efforts on improving testing and tracing programs for all Tennesseans, but it failed to do that as well.
State leadership could have passed relief bills that included funding towards personal protection gear for the safety of frontline healthcare professionals, teachers, and other essential workers. Again, they failed.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic continues to be a reality for the foreseeable future. To get through this, we will all need to work together, and we can do it only if we all take this threat seriously.
Our local elected leaders have taken the correct action by stepping up to mandate masks in Rutherford County. But it is not enough. Our elected leaders need to do so much more.
During the special session this August, our state leaders need to come together and work towards an agenda that would seriously combat this pandemic and provide relief to the people.
And Gov. Lee needs to extend the order giving county mayors the authority to mandate masks. The storm is not passing anytime soon and by acting now, we can combat the virus and save lives.