The mayor of a small Tennessee county that is seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases has frustrated residents by declining to implement a mask mandate until the “Holy Spirit” nudges him to do so, AL.com reports. Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman was quoted by the news outlet saying that coronavirus “is science and it’s true,” and that he has no doubt that “masking helps prevent the spread of it.” “But I don’t feel I should mandate people wearing masks at this time,” he said. He went on to say that he takes his cues for such serious decisions from the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit dwells within us. It’s a heart thing. It’s not a mind thing,” he was quoted saying.
The county Newman heads, with a population of about 34,000, has seen its seven-day rolling average double recently, from 11 average cases in mid-October to 23 this month, according to the state Department of Health. Many residents have taken to publicly venting about Newman in a Facebook group that urges mask-wearing. “There’s a lot of anger. People feel like there’s a chance for leadership and he’s not taking it and he’s ducking behind the Holy Spirit,” Kay Campbell, the group‘s administrator, told AL.com.