City of Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch releases statement on limitations cities face when trying to protect citizens from COVID-19

The City of Oak Ridge has not been given the authority by Governor Bill Lee to either enact or enforce any mandatory COVID restrictions, including a mask requirement. The City continues to operate under an emergency order which incorporates the recommendations of the State of Tennessee, but is without the authority to enforce any of those recommendations. The number of confirmed and active COVID cases in the City of Oak Ridge continues to increase at an alarming rate. A recent report from Vanderbilt University has confirmed the effectiveness of masks in helping to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

In July, our City Council passed a unanimous resolution requesting the Governor to give city governments the authority to determine what actions are necessary to protect their citizens. Unfortunately, the Governor has not approved that request.

The City of Oak Ridge lies in both Anderson and Roane counties. According to the Governor's Executive Order, both the Anderson County Mayor and Roane County Executive must approve mandatory mask requirements in their counties, or authorize city governments, including Oak Ridge, to make that determination. To date, that approval has not been forthcoming.

As we continue to fight this deadly virus and the growing number of cases in our City, we urge all of our citizens to wear masks, wash and/or sanitize their hands frequently, comply with social distancing, and other CDC guidelines. We also urge our local businesses to encourage their customers to comply with these preventive measures.

Warren L. Gooch
City of Oak Ridge Mayor