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Masks aren’t killing anyone, but COVID-19 still is

Gov. Bill Lee is ordering the state’s local governments to lift mask mandates in public places and is telling larger counties in Tennessee to lift their COVID-19 restrictions like mask requirements by Memorial Day.
The Governor’s declaration this week that COVID-19 is no longer an imminent threat comes despite Tennessee’s rank as one of the bottom three states for percentage of adults with at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gov. Lee said, “We have to learn to live with it (COVID) just like we do any risk…It’s time for celebrations and weddings and conventions and concerts and parades and proms and everything in between, to happen without limits on gathering sizes or any other arbitrary restrictions on those events.”
The governor, who is up for re-election next year, said he will now turn his attention to helping the economy recover.
The governor, who has never implemented a statewide mask mandate, has left it open as an individual option for local counties. In 89 of the 95 counties, there have not been virus-related limits on businesses and social gatherings since last fall, when Gov. Lee lifted them.
The pandemic has killed more than 12,100 people in Tennessee — 156 of them in Carter County. Over the past two weeks, there have been 268 new cases of COVID-19 reported per 100,000 people in Tennessee, ranking 18th in the county, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.
While the possible end of a mask requirement strikes some business owners as common sense, infectious disease doctors are hesitant. Many believe that COVID-19 is still very much a public health emergency and that vaccinations, masks, and distancing still remain our best means to fight this pandemic. With only 25 percent of the state’s population fully vaccinated, ending the mask mandate will make the fight more challenging and prolonged.
The Tennessee Dept. of Health website shows that that only 21.04 percent of Carter Contains have received both doses of the vaccine. At the same time, the department’s website reveals that Carter County has averaged 10.1 new cases per day the past two weeks and has averaged 94/7 tests per days. Thus, the figures show that COVID-19 is still with us, and precautions still must be taken.
The latest CDC guidelines, issued Tuesday, said unvaccinated people can exercise outdoors unmasked and attend small outdoor groups with vaccinated people. For large outdoor or indoor events, it said it is still too dangerous for anyone to be unmasked.
Even if all other Tennessee counties have lifted their mandates and the governor lifts mask mandates in public places, that doesn’t mean removing mask mandates is the right thing to do. While the numbers are looking better 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 to be fully vaccinated to reach herd immunity and our county is not close to those numbers just yet.
Why remove a mask mandate amidst a pandemic that is clearly not over? We’re not sure why it hurts to keep wearing masks when they’ve been proven (when worn properly) to slow the spread of COVID. 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?
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 outreach of power. But, tell that to family members who have lost loved ones to COVID. Tell it to those who have had the deadly virus.
Masks are not killing anyone, but COVID-19 still is.
If you have not had your COVID-19 shots, we would urge you to make haste and get them…if not for your own safety, you should continue to wear a mask when you go to restaurants or other places where there are people.