George Thacker

On Friday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed Executive Order 54 to grant county mayors in 89 counties the authority to issue local mask requirements in the event of a significant rise in COVID-19 cases.

“While our densely populated urban areas continue to have the highest COVID-19 case rates, our local governments expressed a need for greater flexibility in addressing a rise in cases and that includes setting stronger expectations around masks,” said Lee. “This targeted approach ensures we protect both lives and livelihoods and safely keep our economy open in Tennessee. We encourage every Tennessean across the state to use a face covering or mask, make sure to socially distance and wash hands frequently.”

Rhea County Executive George Thacker said the county was monitoring the number of cases in Rhea County and encouraged county residents to wear a mask when out in the community.

“At this point, we’re just encouraging Rhea County residents to wear a mask,” Thacker said. “We also are still encouraging social distancing, hand washing and staying home when you feel sick.”

Thacker, who has been giving periodic updates about the spread of COVID-19 in Rhea County on his Facebook page, said he will likely do another video in the near future, laying out the benefits of wearing a mask.

Officials with Rhea Medical center recently spoke out about the rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Rhea County and also encouraged wearing masks, especially in enclosed spaces.

Rhea Medical Center Infection Preventionist Brandi Lytle also stressed the importance of wearing masks, especially in enclosed places where people are talking or singing.

“Wearing a mask, washing your hands and social distancing are the most effective thing you can do to stop from getting COVID-19 and stop others from giving it to you,” Lytle said.

As of press time Tuesday, Rhea County has had 285 confirmed cases of COVID-19.