Coronavirus: Tennessee mayor will not require masks until Holy Spirit says so

FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee county mayor said that while coronavirus cases are increasing in his area, he will not order mandatory face coverings until the Holy Spirit guides him in that direction.

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Bill Newman, who has been the mayor of Lincoln County since 2014, said he understands science and is in favor of the idea that people should wear masks. However, he believes that is a personal choice.

“(The virus) is science and it’s true and I do believe masking helps prevent the spread of it,” Newman told AL.com. “But I don’t feel I should mandate people wearing masks at this time.”

Newman said he stays abreast with COVID-19 numbers in Lincoln County, a rural county with a population of 34,000 residents that borders Alabama.

In early July, Newman wrote a letter to the county’s Chamber of Commerce, urging them to practice “the right thing” to control COVID-19 outbreaks, the Elk Valley Times reported.

“The governor has given county mayors the authority to mandate the wearing of face-masks,” Newman wrote. “I have taken the position of ‘strongly urging everyone’ to wear a mask instead of a mandate. If businesses don’t step up and require their staff to do the right thing and the number of cases continues to rise, I will have no choice but to mandate face-masks to be worn.”

Newman told AL.com that he prays for guidance whenever he is faced with a big decision. He said that in his Baptist denomination, the answer comes from the Holy Spirit.

“The Holy Spirit dwells within us,” Newman told AL.com. “It’s a heart thing. It’s not a mind thing. But you’re using all your God-given (talents), your physical or mental or spiritual, all those things. When I pray for guidance, I may not know the answer immediately.”

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