Brooks talks masks, asks county officials to lead by example; Download mayor’s executive orders on masks here

Published 6:40 pm Sunday, January 17, 2021

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Claiborne County mayor Joe Brooks says he hopes that those in authority will lead by example when it comes to wearing masks in public arenas. Brooks spoke at length about the issue during the most recent meeting of the Claiborne Commission.

“We’ve had people who have died. Is it a small number? Sure. But that was a Claiborne County resident, neighbor, parent…somebody has died,” said Brooks, referring to the steady climb of COVID-19 cases reported inside the county.

Brooks, who tested positive shortly after Thanksgiving, said he has gone through a sea change.

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“We all know somebody that can tell you ‘it was nothing. I didn’t even know I had it.’ Some people that can tell you ‘I was just all tired – had flu-like symptoms.’”

Brooks says he first noticed a sore throat which hit the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Being cautious, he decided to forego meeting with his extended family during the holiday, preferring to self-quarantine.

By the following Monday Brooks says he was feeling better and decided to go into work. By Friday, the county mayor says he “felt nearly dead.”

That’s when he found out through a swab test that he was positive for the virus.

“I could have carried this all through the courthouse and the community with just what I thought was a tickle in my throat. I didn’t even know I had it,” said Brooks.

He says that he understands that wearing a mask is not 100 percent effective and that it is simply one of a few tools that can be used in combination to help contain the virus so that others might be spared.

Although he doubts the state will ever enforce the mask mandate, he is asking everyone to consider voluntarily doing their part during the pandemic.

“We’re not taking away any of your liberties. We’re just simply asking you when you’re in public to put a mask on for the benefit of not knowing whether you’re walking around with this and you’re getting people infected while you’re in a public space – the grocery stores, the pharmacies, the Walmart – those places where people have to go. We can be smart about this,” said Brooks.

Contact tracing has revealed, he said, that the virus has been transferred in largest numbers within two arenas – schools and churches, the very venues that have been exempt from Executive Orders handed down by the state governor.

“We’ve seen one teacher die from this. When you visit the schools, you see classes of 10 or more students,” said Brooks, referring to specific recommendations that groups be limited in size.

“I would never put my hand in a church’s business. That separation of church and state exists for a reason,” said Brooks.

As for local businesses, he said he doesn’t feel it is the government’s job to tell anyone how to run their enterprise.

When Brooks issued his first mask mandate, there were 123 active county cases. In just over one month, 265 active cases were reported, prompting his move to issue the extension.

The Claiborne Medical Center (CMC) has maintained 75-80 percent capacity – or a total of 26 beds in use during much of the last couple of months. Due to strict regulations, the CMC cannot open additional rooms unless there is enough staff to meet the requirements set for patient/nurse ratio.

If enough staff is on duty, the Center could possibly squeeze the use of 35 beds, utilizing hallways in a pinch, according to Brooks.

The county mayor said on Friday that he is taking it month by month, reviewing the new case numbers to see if the mask mandate needs to be further extended.

To read both the original executive order click Mayor Joe Brooks’ original executive order and for the extension click Mayor Joe Brooks’ executive order extension