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Doctors urge caution as Shelby County drops mask mandate

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 8:31 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) issued a new health directive Wednesday, ending its countywide mask mandate.

Instead, the county is highly recommending businesses themselves require people to wear masks in indoor, public settings.

The county’s decision to drop the mask mandate is a direct result of a decline in COVID-19 cases. But health officials caution this doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.

As the number of people infected with COVID-19 continues to fall, the health department says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no longer considers Shelby County a high transmission area.

In August, when the mask mandate was issued, the seven-day rolling average of new cases was over 600 per day.

The seven-day rolling average is now down to 90, the health department says.

More than 55,000 additional people have also been vaccinated over the last two months.

“Thankfully, the community transmission is way, way down and so that’s something to celebrate,” said Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

Threlkeld says with cases falling and vaccination rising, it could mean a more normal holiday season.

“We look at Thanksgiving and beyond, it does tell us, particularly if everybody’s vaccinated, you can have a more normal holiday and you can enjoy family and not worry as much,” said Threlkeld.

The new health directive took effect immediately Wednesday.

While the county is no longer requiring masks inside businesses, it still highly recommends businesses require them.

The health directive still requires masks to be worn inside schools.

Threlkeld says it’s also important to remember the pandemic is not over.

“I think overall it certainly is a positive step, but I would not say that anybody should mistake this for an all clear,” said Threlkeld.

He encourages people, who haven’t already, to get vaccinated to continue reducing the spread of COVID-19.

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