Hamilton Co. Mask Mandate Extended Due to COVID-19

By: Kaleigh Cortez, Staff Writer–

Due to the continuing spread of COVID-19 and the threat of another spike in cases, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger has extended the county-wide mask mandate until Thursday, Oct. 8.

The renewed mandate requires individuals to wear masks when out in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Any individual found violating this directive could receive a citation from the Hamilton County Health Department or be charged with a Class C misdemeanor by local law enforcement.

The first mandate, Health Directive No. 1, implemented on July 10, 2020, has helped Hamilton County decrease new cases and hospitalizations. According to Health Directive No. 2. Dr. Paul Hendricks, the Health Officer for Hamilton County, followed the “clear clinical and scientific evidence” that facial coverings help slow the spread of COVID-19.

UTC health officials have taken strides to follow the Center for Disease Control, Tennessee Department of Health and Hamilton County Health Department’s guidelines for combating the virus. UTC’s Chief Health Affairs Officer, Dr. Christine Smith discussed how the university has implemented mask requirements to slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

“I think the extension of the mask mandate is one of the most important decisions we have made yet in the fight against the coronavirus, and I fully support it,” she said.

Smith leads the COVID-19 Campus Support Team which was created to track positive cases among students, faculty and staff. The team began tracking cases in June, and recently UTC has seen a decrease in the number of positive cases. Smith attributes this progress to everyone on campus following the protocols.

Smith also pointed to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an example of what happens when guidelines are disregarded. UNC-Chapel Hill was shut down and all classes were moved to online instruction after a substantial spike in positive cases only a week after classes began.

“While none of us really like wearing the masks, they have played a tremendous part of our success in keeping students on campus,” she said.

UTC Associate Professor of Economics, Dr. Sami Dakhlia understands the need for facial coverings, but finds it difficult to change his teaching style. In previous semesters, Dakhlia would walk around the lecture hall to assist students with assignments. Now, to maintain social distancing, he said he must remain at the front of the room.

“It’s less fun for me. It’s less fun for the students. And that bit of communication from just reading people’s faces is no longer happening,” he said.

UTC freshman Carly Mosely from Nashville, had a different experience with one of her professors. Moseley said out of her five face-to-face classes, only one instructor does not enforce the mask policy. While Moseley feels her friends respect the protocol, she has noticed many students break the rules.

“I see kids in my complex that don’t really care, and they’re partying or are in, like, 40 people groups,” she said.

Moseley feels that UTC has taken all of the necessary precautions, but hopes more students follow the guidelines so she can have a normal college experience soon.

For more information regarding the university’s health and safety protocols, visit https://blog.utc.edu/coronavirus/.

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