SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Wearing a face mask in public may become a requirement but not an ordinance in Shelby County.
Commissioners approved a resolution urging the health department to strengthen its current directive.
Initially county commissioners approved an ordinance that would require residents and visitors to wear masks in public and businesses in violation would have been fined too.
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Over the weekend, County attorney Marlinee C. Iverson sent a letter to County Commission chairman Mark Billingsley stating only the Shelby County Health Department has the power to require masks.
“The effort behind the ordinance and now this resolution was once we open, we’re able to stay open,” said Commissioner Tami Sawyer who sponsored the resolution.
She said the resolution eliminates the $50 fine for businesses that aren’t in compliance. Instead, Sawyer said this resolution requests Mayor Lee Harris to use some of the federal CARES ACT funding to create a Healthy Shelby Business initiative.
“This would allow businesses that agree to be in the Healthy Shelby Business initiative to have signage on their doors showing they’re a Healthy Shelby Business and they would be listed on the Mayor’s website,” she said.
Some commissioners had concerns about mandating what the health department should or shouldn’t do. But a member of the county attorney’s office says the resolution didn’t cross the line.
Health director Alisa Haushalter said she’s been meeting Commissioner Sawyer about the resolution and she said her team will discuss potentially changing the language this week.
“For us, we always look to the CDC language which has been to recommend versus require but it doesn’t mean we’re opposed to requiring it and I’ll follow up and we’ll discuss further,” she said. “We’ve amended health directives before so we can do that.”
Because the $50 fine was eliminated, Sawyer said this resolution doesn’t involve law enforcement at all.
Additionally, she said the resolution will expire once the health director say Shelby County isn’t at high risk for spreading the virus and we’ve moved into a phase on containment.
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