Masks still required inside all schools in Shelby County, health director says

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — If your child goes to a school in Shelby County, they will need to mask up until further notice.

The Shelby County Health Department announced Monday that masking will remain in place in all K-12 schools, Pre-Ks, and daycares.

This is despite Governor Bill Lee signing a bill to end mask mandates in schools on Friday.

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Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph sent out a letter Monday to all school officials saying any teachers, students or staff not wearing masks in school is in violation of a current health order.

“Even if the virus does die, I feel like face masks should still be worn,” Laderica Sweet, a mother of a four-year-old daughter said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sweet has been doing what she can to keep her daughter safe.

“She doesn’t stay around people and she’s in the house,” she said. “I also wear my mask when I go to work.”

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Sweet has even opted to keep her daughter home from daycare until cases decrease. When she does return, Sweet said her daughter will wear a mask.

“Kids’ immune systems are different from grown people, so I feel like they should still wear them,” she said.

Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said schools in the county that do not enforce masks will be in violation of a federal court order.

“Nothing has changed in the stance of the Shelby County Health Department because there is an order from a federal judge that says universal masking is to remain in place in Shelby County for our K-12, Pre-Ks and daycares,” she said.

As the debate over masks in schools continues, doctors at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital are sounding the alarm.

Currently, 33 percent of active COVID cases in Shelby County are children. That’s up from 29 percent two weeks ago.

“Maybe there will be a period of time where we can safely be without masks, but we’re not quite there yet, and this seems like the safest thing to do right now,” Dr. Sandy Arnold at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital said.

Dr. Arnold worries if schools drop masks, it may undo some of the progress the county has made.

“Having your child not wearing a mask at school increases the risk of them getting COVID-19,” she said. “If they are vaccinated, I guess that’s not a big deal, but most kids in schools are not vaccinated.”

The Shelby County School District announced a partnership with the health department to get more kids between 5 and 11 vaccinated.

The district is hosting a student vaccination event Friday and Saturday at the Shelby County Board of Education.