Officials discuss mask enforcement as active COVID-19 cases climb

JACKSON, Tenn. — The new mask mandate in Jackson and Madison County has a lot of people talking.

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“You may feel like we’re treading on your rights, and to some extent we are,” Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris said.

The mandate went into effect on Saturday, July 4, requiring businesses to make people wear a mask when they come inside a building.

“We certainly cannot police every call we get. That was not the purpose to have control over businesses in no form or fashion,” Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department Director Kim Tedford said.

But so far, officials have not issued any citations for businesses not enforcing the measure.

“We’re trying to give a grace period for businesses to do what they need to do,” Tedford said.

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WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News reporter Julia Ewoldt asked Tedford, Mayor Harris, and City of Jackson Mayor Scott Conger if they felt the new mandate was putting more responsibility on business owners and employees to enforce the order.

“Yes, I totally get that. I understand that. It most certainly does. In a perfect world where everybody followed the mandate when they entered the business, nobody would have to ask somebody not to enter. It does put an undo burden on everybody,” Tedford said.

Tedford says citations will be a last resort since the health department has neither the time nor the resources to monitor every situation.

“We’re covered up with new cases that we have to make contact with, as well as the contacts to those cases. So, it’s a stressor on everybody,” she said.

Tedford said there also isn’t enough time or staff to do another mask giveaway right now.

“We’re expecting another shipment. Businesses can contact us if they need masks to use for their employees or if they just want to hand some out, we’ll be glad to get masks in their hands. Right now I currently do not have staff available to do a mask handout because we’re too busy doing contact tracing and trying to contact positive cases to give them guidelines,” she said.

Mayor Conger said five Jackson Police Department officers are currently quarantined, and one Jackson Fire Department firefighter was just released from quarantine.

Mayor Harris said one Madison County jail employee has tested positive for COVID-19, and three more are currently quarantined. None of those employees had contact with inmates, according to Mayor Harris.

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