MEMPHIS, Tenn. — New details have been released after the Memphis City Council passed a resolution requiring masks to be worn in public Tuesday evening.
The ordinance says people will be required to wear facial coverings in businesses and some public spaces within the city limits during a public health emergency. The ordinance passed with a vote of nine in favor and four against after over an hour of debating.
The measure left a lot of questions unanswered so WREG’s Shay Arthur spoke with Councilman Dr. Jeff Warren for clarification.
He said residents are not required to wear a mask if you are simply walking down the street or exercising outdoors. It really comes into play when in a large group, inside a business or certain public spaces.
If you visit the store or the library for instance you will have to wear a mask. That rule also applies to gyms unless the equipment is six feet apart.
Of course, exceptions will be made for those with breathing issues like asthma.
The enforcement of the measure will not fall to the Memphis Police Department, Warren said. The Shelby County Health Department and Code Enforcement will be the ones to take the lead on this.
The goal is to have 60% of people wearing masks, warren said, to cut down on the spread of the coronavirus. He also said you are 19 times more likely to catch the virus indoors than outdoors.
In the next several days they will ask businesses to put up signs encouraging people to wear masks. Residents will be given three warnings if they are caught without a mask. On the third, they may receive community service or pay a fine.
Before going into effect, the measure still has to be approved by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the minutes from Tuesday’s meeting must be approved at the next council meeting.
Strickland said Wednesday he was still reviewing how council would like the ordinance enforced, and added this in a statement:
“I know you’re getting tired of me asking, begging almost, to wear a facial covering when you’re out in public. But, the fact of the matter is—it reduces the spread of the virus, and it’s not just me who believes this.”
State Sen. Brian Kelsey said he is requesting an opinion from the state’s attorney general on whether the ordinance is constitutional.
“The Memphis City Council mask mandate raises serious constitutional questions,” the Germantown Republican said. “I think it would be prudent for the state Attorney General to weigh in on this issue before the ordinance becomes final.”
While mandating masks can be controversial, there is support from some in Memphis.
“This is a new normal since COVID so it’s better safe than sorry,” said Miaya Poellinetz.