Shelby County Health Director encourages wearing masks, but mandating not likely

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — As Shelby County has more than 8,000 COVID-19 cases and 164 deaths, the Shelby County Health Department director said the message needs to go out to encourage people to wear masks.

While Dr. Alisa Haushalter encouraged people to wear masks, she said mandating the issue will be tough.

“We do not anticipate at the current time that we would be moving into Phase 3 at any specific date in the near future,” Dr. Haushalter said.

The Shelby County Health Department director had the blunt message at Monday afternoon’s virtual Shelby County Commission meeting. 

Haushalter talked about the recent uptick Shelby County has seen in COVID-19 cases that she said also represents significantly increased testing with results from 20 different labs. 

READ MORE: Shelby County Commissioner requests return to Phase 1 or modification of Phase 2

This presentation to the commission comes as commissioner Tami Sawyer has requested the county to move back to Phase 1 following the large number of increases. 

Haushalter also talked about mandating masks. 

Just last week, the Memphis city council passed a mask ordinance in the city.

“At the current time, the advice we’ve received is we’re not able to mandate mask-wearing from a public health perspective,” Haushalter said. “I did have conversations also with the state health department, and I know the governor’s position has been not to mandate masks.”

Dr. Haushalter said in her eyes, the solution is changing the social norm to get people to wear masks and encourage consumers to exercise their voices by supporting businesses following safe practices. 

The City of Memphis mask ordinance has not yet been signed by the mayor.

READ MORE: City council approves Memphis mask ordinance

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