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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County Health Department is requiring all students, teachers, staff and visitors in K-12 schools, preschools and daycare centers mask up indoors beginning Monday.

The department issued an amended health order Friday morning, following CDC guidance.

“This amendment is deemed necessary because Health Department data indicates an alarming increase in pediatric COVID-19 cases in recent weeks,” the department said in a release. “More than one quarter of the current active cases are among those 17 and younger. Regional hospitals also report an increase in COVID-19 pediatric cases, many of whom require intensive care and ventilatory support.”

The department said it had consulted with school districts on the mask requirement.

The new health order also strongly encourages employers to require COVID-19 vaccinations or regular COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated employees, including those who are asymptomatic.

View the text of the health order here.

“Protecting the health of Shelby County children is one of the Health Department’s highest priorities,” Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said in a release. “Masks, when worn correctly and consistently over the nose and mouth, have been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious respiratory diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends masks in schools, which serve many children under the age of 12 who are not yet able to be protected from COVID-19 through vaccination.”

Thursday, Shelby County reported 4,383 active cases of COVID-19. More than one in four cases were among children, the health department said.

“Local data makes it clear that the Delta variant is serious,” County Mayor Lee Harris said in a tweet. “Vaccination is the way we lower transmission levels, help reduce the strain on hospitals, and end this once and for all.”