Hamilton County mask mandate extended through March

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger talks before a press conference at the Hamilton County Health Department's Golley Auditorium on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger renewed a countywide mask mandate on Wednesday, extending the requirement through March 31.

"I always start out when people ask about masks that I don't like wearing a mask," Coppinger said. "But I do know it's protecting me.

"And we really feel like that. If we can really buckle down between now and the 31st of March, we can see a significant difference," he said of his longest renewal yet.

Coppinger has stayed away from business closures and other regulations but has mandated masks since July. He said it's a necessary trade-off to avoid further restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We believe that it is necessary to do a mask [mandate] extension," he said, adding that the masks facilitate coexistence with the virus. "We know the mask has helped us to coexist in many ways.