Could Shelby County’s mask mandate soon be lifted?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County’s mask mandate could soon be lifted.

The health department hinted it’s possible only if the data suggests it’s safe enough to do so.

Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said if the health department lifts the mask mandate, it will still encourage people to wear them.

Meanwhile, Councilman Jeff Warren argues it’s too early to stop wearing masks.

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“Taking your mask off and going square dancing with strangers and you don’t know what their vaccination status is doesn’t make much sense,” said Warren.

Warren is concerned about what will happen if the mask mandate is lifted. He is a doctor at Regional One Health, so he is very familiar with how this could impact the number of cases.

“You already have the CDC saying you need to double mask. When you have the CDC saying double mask, taking your mask off makes no sense,” said Dr. Warren.

Right now, there are no plans to lift the mask mandate yet, but during a news conference, County Health Officer Dr. Randolph suggested it could happen in the future.

“We are looking at all mandates, and so the mask mandate is something we would consider,” Randolph said.

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Dr. Randolph said this decision would be based on data. Data he will examine over a 30 day period - like the number of new cases and positivity rate over one to two weeks, the number or percent of deaths and new cases, and other factors.

He said if the mandate is lifted, the health department will still encourage people to wear masks.

“Actually, the mask is the simplest tool that we have that’s shown to be most effective, and we would need to have good reasons to get rid of it,” said Dr. Randolph.

Still, Dr. Warren said it’s too early even to consider conversations like this.

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“It doesn’t really make any sense scientifically,” said Warren. “Right now is not the time to take the mask off and inhale extra virus.”

The newest health directive will be released later this week.

Dr. Randolph said it will allow more live music, dancing, and buffets, but it won’t touch on the mask mandate.

Again, if that happens, it’s possibly weeks or maybe even months away.