Health officials caution against Independence Day gatherings

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Masks are now mandatory inside businesses and public buildings in Memphis.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland signed the mandatory face-covering ordinance passed by the Memphis City Council last Tuesday.

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This move came, as 14 percent of all coronavirus cases in Shelby County have been reported in just the past six days.

That included 294 more cases reported Thursday which marked the second-highest daily total of positive cases.

“There shows no signs whatsoever that the number of cases or number of deaths are going to slow down in the summer,” said David Sweat, Chief of Epidemiology with the Shelby County Health Department.

He feared summertime gatherings would only make the number of positive COVID-19 cases worse.

Related: Mayor Strickland signs Memphis mask ordinance

“This is something we’re really worried about as we head into July 4th,” Sweat said. “On Memorial Day weekend there were a lot of gatherings. There were some viral videos that were shared about different kinds of outdoor parties.”

What is the 4th of July if not a big, outdoor party?

Normal festivities include grilling and watching fireworks with friends and family.

But contact tracing investigations showed most of the transmission come from social circles.

“This phenomenon of social gathering in unsafe ways seems to be particularly important,” Sweat said.

Sweat added that officials fear similar outdoor parties will be held next weekend.

He wanted people to be careful and to wear a mask is to be kind and courteous to family, friends, and neighbors.

He said wearing a mask was a proven way to slow transmission.

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