Health officials discuss mask effectiveness, face push back following mandate

JACKSON, Tenn. — Do masks work? That was the topic for the first press conference from local leaders and health officials since the mask mandate was enacted in Madison County.

Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department

“We knew this was not going to be popular when we mandated it,” said Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department Director Kim Tedford.

The mask mandate went into effect this weekend, and leaders have already faced pushback.

“You can’t drive a car without a seat belt on. Think about a helmet law. You can’t ride a motorcycle without a helmet. Think about the law on texting and driving. That is a law to protect you and the public health of this community,” said Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris.

But like seat belts, does it actually work?

“No matter your beliefs about the issue, there is scientific data to prove that you are protecting others from your droplets and your respiratory secretions when you are wearing a mask,” said Amy Garner, chief compliance and communications officer for West Tennessee Healthcare.

Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department

Now, the hospital is showing some of their own data on their employees wearing a mask from the beginning of the pandemic…

“We didn’t realize asymptomatic people were carrying the virus, and that it could spread so easily,” Garner said, “We did not require all of our healthcare workers to wear masks at the time. We had about 26 employees across our system test positive for COVID early on.”

…To now.

“In the middle of April, we started requiring universal masking for all of our employees, all of our healthcare workers. After we did that, I looked back at the data, and I noticed we only had two employees who tested positive in our system from the middle of April to the end of May,” Garner said.

She said this was not a scientific study, but there was a correlation between masking people and fewer infections.

“Out of thousands of employees, and thousands of interactions with patients, once we started universal masking, only two employees got the virus,” Garner said.

And Garner wants to remind you to not go to the emergency room for COVID-19 testing, but go to the volunteer medical clinic instead.




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