Jim Coppinger lowered his mask Wednesday during a news conference and announced the Hamilton County mask mandate will continue through March 31. He acknowledged that he doesn't much care for wearing a mask — who does? — but knows that face coverings protect him and those around him.

The details of the extended mask mandate are as you would expect. It's been a full 10 months since the coronavirus has dominated every aspect of our lives.

Coppinger's announcement is not surprising. The numbers are growing, reaching record levels almost every other day and certainly by the week. The county's website reported 228 new cases Thursday, which brings our total to 35,328 with 323 deaths.

We ended 2020 with a record-setting December, and the first two weeks of 2021 have averaged more than 400 new cases a day.

So extending the mandate was not only expected, it's the smart play — hey, Whitfield County, please pay attention — because as the adage goes, no soldier wants to be the last one killed in the war.

Sure, vaccine distribution has begun, and the early assessments of that distribution in our county — and in several around us — could be best described as some sort of hybrid between a wagon train to nowhere and the scene in "European Vacation" when Clark Griswold can't get into the left lane.

"Look kids, Big Ben and Amnicola Highway."

Everyone, everywhere is clamoring for more vaccines. That's great news. Folks want the shots.

The county is slow getting adequate supplies of vaccine; you could logically presume that the state isn't getting an adequate supply and/or worse, is getting little-to-no good information from the feds about what to expect and when. The truth is there is no modern-day precedent for such a massive public health push; manufacturing, supply chains and distribution channels are stretched.

Could the rollout have been smoother? Even sandpaper thinks so.

But as we are figuring out how to most efficiently use the limited vaccine quantities sent our way, keep in mind two things:

First, it's far better that we have way more people who want the vaccine than we have vaccine.

Second, while we wait our turn — and gang, as a 50-year-old fella, I'll be toward the back of the line — do your part to keep yourself and your fellow Hamilton Countians safe.

Follow the mandate, and let's get as many of us as possible to the finish line. Perhaps by the time March 31 rolls around, we truly will be rounding third base against this thing.

Contact Jay Greeson at

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Jay Greeson