This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A possible $50 fine could be coming to people who who don’t a wear mask in public.

Tuesday, the Shelby County Health Department said it supports the proposal, which is being considered by the county commission. 

“The health department will play a key role in the enforcement of that ordinance, and we are in support of it,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, health officer for the county.

In the first of three readings Monday, the Shelby County Commission debated whether to fine people $50 if going to an event without a mask or allowing too many people at a restaurant table.

“Certainly, we cannot tolerate not doing anything,” Randolph said. “So we’re looking at another option short of complete closure of the facility.”

As of Tuesday, the county has reported 51,775 cases of COVID-19, 541 new cases since Monday, and a total of 709 deaths.

Those numbers are raising concerns about the impact they’ll have on hospitals and the need to open the alternate care facility, at the site of the old Commerical Appeal building on Union.

A hospital staffing shortage and fewer acute and ICU beds now have the city and county putting out a call for licensed medical professionals to sign up for the Tennessee Medical Service Corps volunteer program.

“Staffing is a challenge,” said Doug McGowen, city COO. “Early in the pandemic when there were areas of of the country not as affected, we could pull from to staff up the alternate care facility. Today that pool is much much more shallow.”

And even with COVID vaccines arriving in a few weeks, the public is still being urged to mask up and social distance.

“The vaccines are showing real promise,” McGowen said. “Every day you go out and put this mask on know that the days are numbered when you’ll have to wear this all the time.”

The city and county are also urging people to take advantage of two free surge testing events planned for this weekend.

They’ll be at 3495 Hacks Cross Road and 1790 RKS Commerical Cove.