Mask mandate possible as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

JACKSON, Tenn. — West Tennessee Healthcare’s chief physician executive says Jackson-Madison County General Hospital can handle 50 COVID-19 patients at one time.

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“It’s doubled on us in the past week, or over-doubled on us. But, it has stabilized on us in the past few days. I would just say if we get in the fifties, we’re going to be pushed,” Dr. Jackie Taylor said.

But that number may not be in the distant future.

The hospital system says they had 29 COVID-positive patients on Wednesday. Ten were in ICU, and six were on a ventilator.

“For perspective, after the initial pandemic, the first episode of that, we’ve been running about six to 10 patients a day. Last week it doubled to the twenties, and we’re close to the thirties now,” Dr. Taylor said.

That increase in hospitalizations is being prompted by the ever-growing case count in the area.

Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department director Kim Tedford announced 28 new cases on Wednesday, the highest we’ve seen yet by a long shot.

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“Let me tell you right now, looking at this increase in numbers, we’re dealing with what we call a cluster,” Tedford said.

The cases are coming from churches, businesses, city and county departments, even from parties.

“When we’re reaching out to people who have been contacts to positive cases, and we identified you as a close contact, we are asking you to quarantine for 14 days. When we have people in the community who tell us, ‘I’m not going to do that,’ then you’re making the conscious effort to spread disease to other people,” Tedford said.

Now that rising count is forcing city and county leaders to make tough decision.

WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News asked Tedford, Jackson Mayor Scott Conger and Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris at what point masks will be mandated.

“We’re getting close” Mayor Conger said.

“Those talks are already going on. We’re talking about putting a mandate in place. So let’s just say, expect one in the next few days,” Tedford said.

And without follow-through on consequences, leaders say we’ll continue on this trajectory.

“If you’re stubborn enough, if you’re aggravated enough, if you’re arrogant enough, and insensitive enough to not wear a mask to protect your kids, or your family or the people you work with, then have at it,” Mayor Harris said.

Officials also said, right now, they aren’t discussing putting further restrictions in place, but they’re hoping the possibility of a mask mandate would resolve some of the problems.

Categories: COVID-19 Updates, Local News, News