New Shelby County mask mandate begins today

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Shelby County is now under a county-wide mask mandate.

The mandate began at 7 a.m. Friday.

It’s an effort to reduce the spread of COVID and save the local hospital system from collapsing, but will it hold up?

RELATED: SCS teacher identified after reportedly dying from COVID-19

Earlier this week Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order letting parents opt out of school mask mandates in large part because of the Shelby County Health Department’s requirement for all public and private schools in the county. And Thursday, the health department announced that’s acceptable. You may also not wear a mask in places of worship that do not require them.

“Anything they’re doing in Nashville is what they are doing up there. Right here in Shelby County, we are making sure everyone stays as safe as possible,” said Michelle Taylor, MD Shelby County Health Director.

RELATED: CDC: Unvaccinated individuals who’ve had COVID are twice as likely to get reinfected

The county health department’s latest effort, an indoor mask mandate, comes as the leaders of hospitals in the Memphis area said their systems are on the verge of collapsing because of the ongoing surge in COVID cases.

“Projections for COVID patients that are hospitalized will double by the end of this month and increase sixfold by the end of September,” said Doug McGowen, Memphis Chief Operating Officer.

RELATED: Pediatric ICU beds over 70 percent full in Tennessee, data shows

The new mask mandate is slated to last 30 days.

“It’s an OK idea. If that’s what the government wants to do, that’s what they want to do,” said Carlo Digiovanni, of Memphis.

RELATED: Health department says school mask mandate remains in effect in Shelby County

While Gov. Lee stepped in and gave parents a way around Shelby County’s school mask mandate, throughout the pandemic, he avoided a statewide mandate by instead giving power to local leaders as they saw fit.

“The virus is not playing at all,” said Thelma Snipe, of Memphis.

Snipe said she’s hopeful the mask mandate will be upheld but isn’t confident.

“If people would respect the virus and do what it says we would be better off,” said Snipe.

We reached out to Governor Lee’s office to get his take on the mask mandate, but have not heard back.

Again, everyone over the age of 2 will have to mask up indoors in Shelby County.

For the specifics on where it applies and what’s excluded, click here.