July 24, 2020 6:00am

Masks can work; will you wear them?

July Power Poll pulls in 45% response rate

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Chattanooga, TN Correspondent
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With Chattanooga and Hamilton County seeing an upward trend in new coronavirus cases, more than three-fourths of area leaders surveyed this week believe that the county's mask mandate will be effective in halting community spread of the disease.

However, almost the same percentage is a little squishy when it comes to whether residents would actually follow the mandate. The survey showed most are just “somewhat confident” that area residents will abide by the mandate and any other public health recommendations that may be necessary, according to a new Power Poll survey.

The Power Poll surveyed 163 individuals who make or influence policy at the local, state and federal levels. The Power Poll, which is not a scientific survey, is composed of elected officials and leaders from business, civic and nonprofit organizations, media and education.

This poll, conducted Monday through Thursday, drew responses from 74 individuals, for a 45% response rate.

Poll respondents overwhelmingly — at 78% — think Hamilton County's mask mandate, put into effect July 10 by county Mayor Jim Coppinger, will be effective in curtailing the coronavirus; 22% percent indicated they did not think that was the case.

Those numbers hardly shifted on the question of whether respondents are confident that local residents would follow a mask mandate: only 3% said they are “very confident;” 76% said they were “somewhat confident;” and 22% said they were “not confident.”

“Though hope is not a strategy, I nonetheless hope that the citizenry of Hamilton County will take the advice of so many of our community, state and national leaders and wear masks,” said Nick Decosimo, an Elliott Davis shareholder and Power Poll respondent.

For months medical experts have urged citizens to wear masks while in public or in places where social distancing is impossible. Those recommendations, however, have turned ugly, becoming a political symbol reflecting the country's deep political divide.

But as COVID-19 cases and deaths rise across the country, more and more people support requiring folks to wear face coverings. In fact, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed three of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, support mandating people to wear face coverings while outside their homes.

In a turnabout this week, President Donald Trump, who has dismissed face coverings since the pandemic began, said wearing a mask was “patriotic.”

“For Trump to have made the wearing of masks a political issue has proven a deadly mistake for our country,” said local activist Franklin McCallie and a Power Poll respondent. “To the extent that Chattanoogans want to protect each other rather than argue 'freedoms' over a little, but effective cloth mask will be the key as to how many more citizens in Hamilton County get infected, or die, and how soon we can open our businesses and stay open.”

Power Poll respondents split almost evenly on the question of whether future business shutdowns will be needed.

In response to the question, “Given what the data shows today, do you think the state, county or city will have to shut down area businesses again?” 49% said “yes,” while 51 percent said “no.”

State and local government officials and public health officials are monitoring COVID-19-related data and are not letting up on pressure on the public to comply with mask recommendations. The public's compliance with these recommendations is seen as key to helping keep businesses open and the economy moving. No one wants to see shutdowns again.

The pandemic was not the only issue Power Pollers weighed in on this month. With the August election just a few weeks away, the heated race between Dr. Manny Sethi and Bill Hagerty in the GOP Senate primary contest has turned nasty. Both candidates are hurling insults and challenging one another's conservative bona fides. This is clearly the race to watch.

Power Poll respondents who said they are voting in the GOP primary favored Sethi over Hagerty, 47% (35 respondents) to 14% (10 respondents). About 36% (27 respondents) said they were not voting in the GOP primary.

But, but, but … When asked who they thought will win the GOP Senate primary race, the results went the other way: 59% (44 respondents) said Hagerty would win while 36% (27 respondents) said Sethi would win.

Both candidates have racked up significant endorsements and continue to haul in money to bolster their campaigns.

Contact Chris Vass at cvass@timesfreepress.com.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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