At 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, July 10, 2020, a county-wide mandate to wear masks in public for Hamilton County, TN goes into effect. Dade County residents, as frequent visitors to Hamilton County, TN for work, shopping, play, appointments of all kinds, may have questions regarding this mandate.
Chattanooga Mayor Jim Coppinger announced the mandate earlier this week pointing to almost 3,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths as the reason for the new mandate. Violating the mandate could result in a Class C misdemeanor with a $50 fine or up to 30 days in jail. Even business owners can be cited for anyone within their business not wearing a mask.
In part, the order reads –
“NOW, THEREFORE, I, Dr. Paul Hendricks, MD, Hamilton County Health Officer, pursuant to the laws of the State of Tennessee, do hereby issue the following Health Directive:
1. Effective at 12:01 a.m. on July 10, 2020, all persons in Hamilton County shall wear a facial covering or mask which covers the mouth and nose at all times when indoors in all public and private buildings and when outdoors except under the following exceptions:
2. Face coverings are not required for:
a. Children under 12 years of
b. Anyone with documented medical contraindications to facial covers such as active asthma or COPD
c. Anyone who is acutely short of breath or incapacitated such that they would be unable to remove the covering on their own.
d. Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing – or those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired if they rely on lip reading to communicate. In this situation, consider using a clear face covering. If a clear face covering is not available, consider whether you can use written communication, use closed captioning or decrease background noise to make communication possible while wearing a cloth face covering that blocks your lips.
e. Persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health conditions or other sensory sensitivities, who may have challenges wearing a cloth face covering. Those persons are encouraged to consult with their healthcare provider for advice about wearing cloth face coverings.
f. Persons in a house of worship unless required by that house of worship, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged.
g. Persons who are outdoors unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household. Facial coverings should, however, be kept accessible in the event of encountering a larger group.
h. Persons in cars, trucks, or other private or commercial vehicles either alone or with household members. However, all occupants in vehicles transporting more than one coworker, carpooling or carrying other non-household passengers, shall wear facial coverings.
i. Persons working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household can be maintained. A facial covering should be kept accessible in the event that others enter the area.
j. Office workers and any other employee working alone in an area (such as a private office) where the public or other workers are not present or do not usually enter. A facial covering should be kept accessible in the event others enter that area.
k. Persons who are exercising, such as jogging, bicycling, or swimming, etc, either alone or in small groups where physical distancing of 6 feet or greater can be maintained. A facial covering should be kept accessible in the event of encountering a larger group.
l. Private residences are exempt, but hallways, elevators and other common areas of apartment buildings, condominiums and other medium or high density residential structures are not exempt.
m. Persons seated for the purpose of dining in any restaurant or business that provides food and/or drink for on premises consumption.
3. Facial coverings shall fit snugly and securely against the side of the face. Cloth facial coverings are preferred and should include multiple layers of fabric. Surgical and other medical masks (e.g. N95) are not required and should be preserved for healthcare personnel.
4. Businesses shall not allow anyone to enter or remain in their establishment unless they are wearing a facial covering. No business shall serve anyone without a facial cover unless seated and eating or drinking consumables served by the establishment.
5. Any business failing to enforce this Directive or person refusing to leave an establishment when requested due to no facial covering will be subject to civil citations for their violation of this Directive as well as criminal sanctions.
6. All businesses shall post signage in a place visible to those entering to remind customers of this requirement. Sample wording will be provided in digital format by the Hamilton County Health Department.
7. Weddings and funerals held on private property are exempt from the requirement, but highly encouraged to abide by appropriate public health measures such as masks, social distancing and recommended personal hygiene. Routine business activities of funeral and wedding businesses shall not be exempt.
8. Voting sites for the purpose of voting or administering an election are exempt but encouraged to abide by appropriate public health measures such as masks, social distancing and recommended personal hygiene.
9. Properties belonging to and under the jurisdiction of the Hamilton County Department of Education will be exempt and allowed to follow their own policies.
10. Violations of this Directive by businesses and/or individuals shall be punishable by citation issued by the Hamilton County Health Department and/or criminally by local law enforcement as a Class C misdemeanor.
11. This Directive shall remain in effect until Tuesday, September 8, 2020.”
There are several exemptions to those who need to wear a mask or face covering – lines a. through m. – and locally people had wondered how those exemptions would work if businesses can refuse to serve or allow someone without a mask or face covering into the business.
A call to the Hamilton County Mayor’s office was returned quickly, referring to the Hamilton County Health Department who actually issued the mandate. The Mayor’s office did say that the Health Department had told them that anyone who meets exemption criteria and can not wear a mask, just needs to tell the business that they have an underlying medical condition that fits the exemptions and the business will have to take them at their word.
A call to the number for the Hamilton County Health Department provided by the Mayor’s office revealed that all media requests must be made online. The request was made asking the same question to which a reply was received on Thursday afternoon.
“Per Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes:
Health Directive No. 1 allows businesses to give exemptions.”
For the full order, click the following link in bold lettering: Health Directive No. 1