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Rural Blog: Ky. sheriff, sick with COVID-19, says he should have worn mask; pleads with others to do so


The sheriff of a rural Kentucky county, stricken with covid-19, pleaded on Facebook Sunday for his readers to wear a mask. Grayson County Sheriff Norman Chaffins, a former state trooper, said he thought he got the coronavirus on a Western RV trip. “We maintained our distance as much as we could, but did not always wear a mask,” he wrote. “I am now paying the price.”

Lauren and Norman Chaffins (Photo from Facebook, via Rural Blog)

His post gives detailed descriptions of his many symptoms, concluding: “The worst thing during this is that when one symptom starts to subside, I would develop two different ones. It is almost like someone is controlling them and taking turns turning them up and down as a sick joke. . . . I have had the flu. I’ve had the mumps (on the pancreas), chicken pox, measles, broken neck, and had total knee replacement. If you were to combine the painful effects of all those into one, it would not touch the hell I experienced the past six days with this coronavirus. There is no comparison. Nothing that I know of or have ever experienced compares to it.”

Chaffins, a Republican, wrote three days after Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear ordered wearing of masks in public spaces indoors, or outdoors where six feet of social distancing can’t be maintained. Initial enforcement is up to businesses, which are subject to enforcement from health departments.

Grayson County

“I’m telling you this because I want you to wear your mask,” Chaffins writes. “Not because I am the sheriff, not because the governor said so, and not because the business tells you to. I want you to wear a mask because I do not want anyone to have to go through what I went through. I want you to wear a mask because I don’t want my kids or grandbabies to get sick. I want you to wear a mask because it’s just the right thing to do. It may not 100% guarantee that you won’t contract it, but wearing a mask will certainly reduce your chances. Please understand this: I am not telling you to wear a mask. We are not going to fine you or insist that you wear a mask. As your friend, I am asking you to wear a mask when you are around others and when you go out into public at least until there is a vaccine.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.


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