The state law that Governor Lee relied upon in delegating the authority to Mayors makes the violation of the Order a Class A misdemeanor. Mayor Anderson did not have any discretion regarding the classification of the penalty which is set by the General Assembly and incorporated into Governor Lee’s order. The penalty was simply referenced in the Mayor’s order for public awareness. Williamson County plans to make attempts at education and warning for individuals and businesses who are out of compliance before imposing any penalty. It is not our desire to punish; only to facilitate measures that will slow the spread of COVID-19.
Disclaimer: These FAQs are an attempt to give general answers related to Williamson County’s interpretation of the Order requiring wearing of face coverings. They do not constitute legal advice and if you have specific questions about your individual situation that cannot be answered in general terms, you should consult your own legal counsel.
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Governor Lee has authorized individual counties to impose requirements for face coverings in public place where the number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing. In Williamson County, while we recognize the inconvenience of wearing a face covering, we believe this inconvenience is a preferable alternative to the closure of businesses or continued closure of schools that might result if we are not able to slow the spread of COVID-19. We encourage every citizen to do their part, consistent with the Order and with the guidance provided by state and federal health officials.
Subject to certain exceptions, Williamson County citizens are required to wear a cloth or other face covering, covering the nose and mouth, in all public areas of commercial business establishments; all publicly-accessible areas of business offices where direct interaction with the public is taking place and social distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained; and in public outdoor areas where social distancing of at least six feet from individuals outside one’s own family or household cannot be maintained.
A “commercial business establishment” means any establishment that sells goods or services, or a combination thereof, including but not limited to grocery stores, restaurants, lobbies and public spaces in hotels and other places of lodging, pharmacies, banks, bars, salons, retail stores, medical and dental offices, and entertainment and sports venues.
If your child is twelve years of age or younger, the child is not required to wear a face covering.
No. There is an exception for those who cannot safely wear a face covering due to trouble breathing because of an underlying health condition, or due to another bona-fide medical or other health-related reason for not wearing a face covering. In addition, those who are incapacitated such that they cannot remove their own mask are not required to wear a face covering.
The Mayor’s order does not require a business to examine any type of medical documentation before allowing you to enter without a mask if you have a medical condition. You will not be required to show such documentation to enter a county-owned building if you have a medical condition. However, some businesses may develop their own policies in consultation with their own legal counsel, so we cannot give a blanket answer as to how every business may handle the medical issue question.”
Generally, no. Face coverings are required outdoors ONLY when one is in a public outdoor area where social distancing of six feet or more from one’s own family or household cannot be maintained.
You do not have to wear a face covering while in a private residence or in a private vehicle (unless you are using your vehicle for public transit or as a paid rideshare vehicle).
No. If a customer tells you they have a medical condition that makes wearing a mask unsafe for them, you may take them at their word. You are not required to challenge the basis for their medical claim or to ask them for documentation.
Because the Governor’s Executive Order expressly states that no one with a medical condition that would cause difficulty if they wore a mask is required to wear one, the County does not have authority to direct that a business can tell a person who will not wear a mask due to a medical condition that they may not enter. So, under the County order, an individual who asserts that they have a medical condition would be allowed to enter without a mask. However, individual businesses do have some rights to have control over what goes on in their establishments. You would need to consult your business’s own legal counsel about whether it would be legally appropriate for the business to offer another alternative as a reasonable accommodation to the individual, in order to avoid discrimination against an individual with a disability. This would likely be a very fact-specific inquiry based on the nature of the business, but unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of what the Governor has given the County authority to control.
We suggest that you advise your customer that the law requires that you enforce the order for face coverings within the public areas of your establishment, and that if they are not willing to wear a face covering, you would ask that they leave the premises and return on another occasion after the mandate is lifted. While we recognize that it is difficult to refuse a customer, most customers will understand your position if you inform them that as a business owner, you can be subject to enforcement action if you fail to require compliance in your establishment. Of course, if the customer falls within one of the exceptions in the order, you may allow them admittance without a face covering. If a customer refuses to wear a mask and refuses to leave the premises, law enforcement can be called to assist you.
No. Wearing a mask while armed in Tennessee is only a violation of the law if the intent is to intimidate or threaten someone in violation of their civil rights. It does not apply to wearing a face covering for a public health purpose.
You are only required to wear a mask to church if the church you attend requires one. This is because the government cannot infringe upon your free exercise of religion by limiting your participation in worship. However, it is strongly encouraged that persons wear masks when in worship to avoid spread of the virus to their neighbors, and many churches have decided to require masks.
Because the right to vote is such an important part of our American system, you will not be prohibited from voting or registering to vote due to failing to wear a face covering. However, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when voting or registering to vote, because doing so can protect you and others around you.
We would suggest that you first notify the manager or owner of the business. If the business continues to fail to comply, you may contact Williamson County EMA or local law enforcement (city police if you live within an incorporated municipality, or the Sheriff’s Office in unincorporated areas of the County). Keep in mind that this will be an educational process and our first efforts will be at communication, education and warning before any enforcement activity takes place. It will also be necessary to sort through the various exceptions, such as those for individuals with health conditions. Please be patient as we navigate these efforts.
Pursuant to Governor Lee’s Executive Order and the state law that gives the Governor the power to delegate this authority, violation of the Order is a Class A misdemeanor and can be enforced by local law enforcement within their jurisdictions. However, initially, law enforcement and EMA officials will attempt to gain compliance through communication and education and hope that through those processes, they will be able to avoid utilizing the formal enforcement process afforded by the Governor’s Order.