LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. (WHNT) — As health experts warn about a holiday surge in coronavirus cases, a Tennessee mayor said he is holding off on ordering a mask mandate until the Holy Spirit guides him to do so.
“I do believe masking helps prevent the spread of it, but I don’t feel I should mandate people wearing masks at this time,” Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman said. “The Holy Spirit dwells within us. When I pray for guidance, I may not know the answer immediately.”
The county of 34,000 residents has reported more than 1,300 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
“I don’t feel comfortable at all, and yes, it’s very worrisome,” said Brad Bates, a Fayetteville resident. “Not following the science and taking actions to protect other people doesn’t feel very Christian to me.”
A Facebook group called MaskUpLincolnCounty has amassed over 280 followers and is on a mission to change people’s attitudes.
One person posting about the mayor said, “The Holy Spirit will never advise us to do anything harmful to others. He is making a mockery of it.”
The Lincoln Health System’s Facebook page also contains numerous posts urging residents to wear masks ahead of Thanksgiving.
But the mayor is not without his supporters.
“If he is led by the Holy Spirit, and he thinks that there should be a mask mandate, then if God tells him, maybe there should be. Maybe that’s what he needs to do,” said Angie Farler, a local nurse.
“I’m with the mayor on that. I don’t believe we should wear masks,” added Jack Campbell, of Fayetteville.
Meanwhile, Brad Bates and his wife are hoping the mayor will change his mind, but until then, they say they will be playing it safe.
“We keep our shopping to a minimum. We order things online. We do not go out to eat. We avoid other people as much as possible,” he said.
Tennessee is one of only 14 states in the country to head into the holidays without a mask mandate.