Roane County will not require face masks or face coverings, County Executive Ron Woody said Friday.
In an online video, Woody said most essential businesses are now requiring face coverings. That means a mask requirement by the county may not be necessary anymore, Woody said. Stores that require face coverings now include Kroger, Lowe’s, and Walmart.
“The decisions were made the businesses, which we think was the best decision anyway,” Woody said. It’s better than a government mandate, which no one wants, the county executive said.
“Our businesses should step up and be the responsible party, and they were,” Woody said.
While most Oak Ridge residents live in Anderson County, the west side of the city is in Roane County.
Woody said many Roane County citizens were already wearing masks, and cities and counties were going to have a hard time enforcing a mask mandate anyway. Businesses can regulate customers, requiring shoes and shirts, for example, he said. Now, they can require a mask.
“That gives you as an individual a choice,” Woody said. “If you think that face coverings or masks are something that are ridiculous, and we have a number of people who think they are, then you do not have to be a patron to that business.”
On the other hand, Woody has heard from a resident who said they had been shopping in Knox County, which has a mask mandate, because they felt safer there. That person was glad to see face coverings now required at some businesses with operations in Roane County like Kroger, Lowe’s, and Walmart.
“It’s good that the business community stepped up and is the responsible party,” Woody said. “I think it’s a whole lot better than the government trying to issue a mandate.”
Woody thanked the businesses that are requiring face coverings and masks.
The county executive said residents can decide whether to shop in businesses that requires masks, whether to go to events that might be non-essential, whether to gather with family or friends, whether to go places of worship that require safety measures, and whether to let children play sports.
Since city and county governments and essential businesses are requiring face coverings in their buildings, “I see no reason that the county should issue a county-wide mandate, so we will not,” Woody said.
The county executive announced July 13 that people would be required to wear masks in county buildings with some limited exceptions. He encouraged businesses to adopt similar requirements.
While Knox County has a mask mandate, Anderson County and Loudon County announced that they would not require masks. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced this month that he was giving county mayors in 89 of the state’s 95 counties, including Anderson, Loudon, and Roane, the authority to recommend or require face coverings in their counties.
Roane County has had 122 total COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. The county had 60 active cases on Sunday and 62 recoveries and no deaths.
Woody said the county expects the number of cases to go up, but many people are asymptomatic. Still, asymptomatic patients can carry the virus to other people, Woody said.
He said some patients become seriously ill, but that’s a minority.