Wartburg police won't be ticketing anybody who fails to wear a mask at a store to thwart spread of COVID-19 because there's no law to enforce, according to Wartburg Mayor Jonathan Dagley.
"...the officers will not be citing them because they are not breaking any laws," Dagley's email to WBIR states. "The stores that are requiring masks for entry by putting up such sign are breaking a law (refer to the Bill of rights #9) since the mask mandate is just like I said a mandate is NOT a law (sic).
"In this country Congress (Both Senate and House of Representatives) vote on a bill and then it is placed before the President of the of the United States to sign. If the bill is signed then it is a law upon (sic) then will we enforce and support that masks have to be worn, until then though we will not support or enforce the mandate upon which infringe on the rights of our citizens."
However, the mayor said if a business owner determines "unwanted shoppers" are trespassing, then the city police department can ask them to leave, the mayor said. Wartburg's population is about 900.
Dagley's message is the latest in the brewing local and national debate over whether members of the public should wear a mask to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee strongly advises but isn't forcing anyone to wear a mask while out in public.
Federal health authorities, however, have said the state should impose a mask mandate. Other states are doing it.
Local health officials urge everyone to wear a mask to spare others they come into contact with from being potentially exposed to the virus.
Many retail chains this month including Kroger and CVS announced they were going to start requiring customers to wear a mask. As private property owners, stores have a legal right to refuse service.
The Knox County Board of Health, under its authority in a health crisis, has directed that people wear a mask when in enclosed spaces where people gather. A Knox County Law Department lawyer told them their move was unconstitutional, but experts have told 10News that's incorrect.
Wartburg won't be trying to cite anyone for not wearing a mask, according to the mayor.
The police department posted a Facebook update late Wednesday morning.
The post drew comments of support and criticism.
One man wondered how area grocery stores would respond.