SMITH: Davidson County, don’t lose your mask mandate now

Williamson County recently lifted its mask mandate, even though they shouldn’t have.


Truman McDaniel

Even Vanderbilt’s statues wear masks. (Hustler Multimedia/Truman McDaniel)

Nora Smith, Deputy Opinion Editor

As of Saturday, Feb. 27, masks are no longer required in public spaces in Williamson County, barring county-owned buildings, courtrooms and private businesses who choose to continue requiring masks. For those who don’t know, Williamson County is right next to our own Davidson County, with the nearest border around 15 minutes from Vanderbilt’s campus. 

According to Diane Giddens, Chief of Staff at the Williamson County Mayor’s Office, Mayor Rogers Anderson is lifting the mask mandate that has been in effect since July 8 because of “the significant progress in reduction of COVID cases in recent weeks, and the positive impact on hospital capacity.” However, after taking a look at a few graphs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recent caseload in Williamson County is not looking much better than it did in July when the mandate was put in place. As of Mar. 10 2020, Covid Act Now is even considering Williamson County to be currently “at risk for outbreak,” the third-highest risk level, citing a high positive test rate and the fact that 72 percent of the county’s ICU capacity is in use.

COVID Data Tracker: COVID-19 Integrated County View. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention/U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

With all of this in mind, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to be lifting the mask mandate now. Even if other Tennessee counties have lifted their mandates, that doesn’t mean removing mask mandates is the right thing to do. While the numbers are looking better in Williamson County than they have been the past few months, experts are saying 60 to 80 percent of the population will need to either have had COVID-19 or be fully vaccinated to reach herd immunity, and our country is not close to those numbers just yet. 

Why remove a mask mandate amidst a pandemic that is clearly not over? I’m not sure why it hurts to keep wearing masks when they’ve been proven (when worn properly) to slow the spread of a deadly virus that, as of Mar. 10, has already killed 526,213 people in the U.S alone. Currently, businesses and many public spaces are open, meaning the only thing that really changes with a mask mandate is the virus’s ability to spread. So, why remove the mandate?

It might be related to politics as some members of the Republican Party believe that it’s not the government’s place to impose mandates like those related to masks and social distancing. And it is understandable that some might think the government should not be enforcing mandates regarding required clothing or protection, such as a mask. However, who else is going to enforce protection of our public health during a pandemic?

Regardless of politics, many people are dying, and that should be enough to push anyone to wear something over their nose and mouth when in public so they don’t contribute to the spread. 

While I’m sure many agree, not all people understand the dire need for mask-wearing. There are still plenty of people who think that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu and that the precautions the government has taken are an overreach of power. I may not be able to convince every conspiracy theorist who claims that the government is showing false statistics, but I do know many people who have been personally impacted by this pandemic, and many who have lost loved ones. On top of that, when credible studies are showing that masks are as much as 79 percent effective in preventing transmission between family members living in the same household, people need to be wearing them regardless of political party while in public social situations—if not for themselves then for the protection of other, potentially more vulnerable citizens. 

Mayor Anderson of Williamson County was cited as saying he encourages people to continue wearing masks and social distancing. But, if he really wanted his citizens to continue wearing masks, why’d he lift the mandate? Despite what our neighbors are doing, for the health and safety of our community, keep our mask mandate, Davidson County. Masks aren’t killing anyone, but COVID-19 still is.