Greer issues mask order, effective midnight tonight

Members of the Henry County COVID-19 response team meet Monday afternoon at the Henry County 911 administrative office on North Brewer Street. Pictured clockwise from left are Henry County Mayor Brent Greer, Henry County Director of Schools Leah Watkins, Paris Special School District Director of Schools Norma Gerrell, Paris City Manager Kim Foster, Henry County Emergency Management Director Ron Watkins, Paris Mayor Carlton Gerrell and Henry County Medical Center board chairman Scott Whitby. 

Henry County Mayor Brent Greer has ordered that masks be required in Henry County beginning at midnight Tuesday.

At the recommendation of the local healthcare community, Greer, with the support of the Henry County COVID Response Team, announced the order late Monday afternoon.

The order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and will remain in effect until 12:01 a.m. Aug. 12, unless rescinded, continued or renewed.

“People are sick, it’s that simple,” Greer said. “In my twenty-plus years of public service, I have never faced a situation like COVID-19. In our decision-making postures, it has been very difficult to determine the right direction to take. We are all learning as we go, but that does not excuse or justify delaying making the right decisions. Though difficult and sometimes unpopular, these efforts can help our community gain a path and direction to combat this pandemic.

“We all have to make personal sacrifices, as well as accept the counsel and advice of the leaders that are trying to direct us through this unsettling time.”

The order requires all persons in Henry County to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth while in public and publicly accessible areas.

Those people or entities in control of premises subject to the masking requirement shall post signage at public entrances informing visitors of the requirement to wear a mask within the premises. Proposed signage can be downloaded or picked up at the Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce.

Greer added, “We hope that this effort will not only flatten the curve, but (also) allow us to keep our economy open and give our businesses a chance to survive. We have confidence that once we have made the progress needed and this healthcare crisis becomes more manageable, we will be able to get back on track to creating a new normal.”

On Monday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 146 active cases of COVID-19 in Henry County. The county has reported 216 cases in total, with 70 patients listed as having recovered.

Gov. Bill Lee, who joined the Henry County COVID Response Team meeting Monday afternoon via conference call, said, “I commend Mayor Greer and his COVID Response Team for making masks a priority in Henry County as we work together to fight the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

“Masks are a simple, effective habit that make a big difference and we need every West Tennessean to adopt this habit. The #MaskUpHC campaign is a powerful show of local buy-in as masks are a tool that keeps our way of life on track even through unprecedented times.”

The University of Memphis conducted a study that showed 50% of the citizens of Memphis participated in masking before their city issued a requirement and more than 90% are currently participating.

In a letter Friday morning, local physician Scott Whitby pleaded with local decision makers to “take the simple steps needed to stop the spread and require Henry Countians to wear masks along with continuing to encourage washing hands, maintaining physical distance, and limiting groups and gatherings.”

He added, “Just a month ago, we might have come to a different conclusion, but the rapidly changing nature of this disease requires daily vigilance and adaptation. A masking requirement will help us as a medical community to ensure that we can care for our community.”

C. Wright Pinson, CEO of Vanderbilt Medical Center, wrote in support of the requirements in Henry County stating, “Requiring wearing cloth masks in public will help keep our communities safe, our businesses open and our economy moving.”

COVID-19 has not only impacted the healthcare industry, but tourism remains a vital component of the local economy. “We have been fortunate to see a significant amount of traffic this summer, as people travel to our lake,” Greer said. “These measures will allow that revenue to continue to flow into our economy.”

The first shipment of the custom masks that were developed through the “Mask Up Henry County” Campaign will be available this Thursday at the chamber, Paris city hall, Paris Pediatrics and Eagle Creek Clinic. The second shipment will be available Aug. 14.

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