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Shelby Co. evaluating mask guidance as CDC recommends vaccinated people wear masks indoors

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 6:56 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending vaccinated people to wear masks indoors if they are in “substantial” or “high” transmission areas for COVID-19, we asked if a mask mandate will be reinstated in Shelby County.

Eight weeks after the CDC said vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks indoors, that recommendation changed.

“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Across the Mid-South, cases are rising.

“We are certainly on a trajectory that is very problematic,” said Baptist Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Steve Threlkeld.

In Arkansas, the CDC says there’s high transmission in nearly every county.

Shelby County has an 11 percent positivity rate, the highest in more than a year.

COVID-19 Task Force member, Dr. Jeff Warren, says the Delta variant is the main source of concern.

“Now, what we’re seeing is the number of people who have been vaccinated are still getting COVID, anywhere from 12 to 15 percent of the new cases are people who’ve been vaccinated,” Warren said.

The CDC echoing what local health leaders are saying, “With the delta variant vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates and among unvaccinated people.”

With the latest CDC recommendation, Warren says we should go back to mask mandates in Memphis and Shelby County.

“I am really tired of wearing my mask. I was really happy not to have to wear my mask okay, but in the past week, looking at these numbers, I have put my mask back on when I go into indoor places where I was not doing it three weeks ago,” Warren said.

In a statement, Dr. La Sonya Harris Hall, interim director of Shelby County Health Services said:

“The Shelby County Health Department is evaluating the new guidance issued today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We also reiterate the CDC’s recommendation that residents get vaccinated. The vaccine prevents severe illness, hospitalization, and even death; and also helps reduce the spread of virus in our community.”

Action News 5 asked both the city and the county mayor if they would want to see the mask mandate return but did not hear back.

With the CDC also recommending all K-12 teachers and students wear masks, even if vaccinated, Dr. Jon McCullers, pediatrician-in-chief for LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, says they will be putting out recommendations for schools.

“LeBonheur is going to put out a set of rules for schools this week, and we’re going to recommend following, similar to CDC we’re going to recommend that all children and teachers, and schools wear a mask when there’s periods of high prevalence like now,” McCullers said.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said he would not mandate masks in school, despite the new guidance.

If you are interested in getting vaccinated, click here to find where you can get that shot.

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