HAYWOOD COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - As White House doctors warn Tennessee could become the next coronavirus hotspot, the infection rate in one Mid-South county has gone off the charts.
A University of Tennessee Health Science Center study using Harvard University data shows Haywood County has the highest percentage of new, daily COVID-19 cases by population in the Memphis metro area.
State data shows Haywood has 363 confirmed and probable cases, and five deaths.
County Mayor David Livingston said he wants a closer look at the data before commenting on the study.
Brownsville is the largest city in Haywood County, and Mayor William Rawls calls this a rural health crisis, saying the 2014 hospital closure makes it more problematic.
“I’m afraid there are certain segments of the community that are, A: Not taking the virus seriously or B: You found yourself being exposed, but don’t want to share that information,” he said. “I’m asking people in our community don’t wait for the health department contact tracer to call. If you know you’ve been with someone or if you know you’ve been in a situation where you’ve been exposed, call those people, post it on social media. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s something to be taken very seriously.”
At the beginning of July, the governor gave county mayors without their own health departments the authority to issue local mask requirements.
Livingston is giving residents their own choice, as opposed to requiring masks.
Rawls says, at this rate, he would require face masks, if rural city mayors had that authority.
“Be cautious, remain faithful, social-distance yourself, and mask up. I see people saying they can’t breathe with a mask on, but you can’t breathe on a ventilator either,” said Rawls.