MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s the Governor versus local health agencies Wednesday as Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said he is preparing to sign legislation that could mean an end to most mask mandates in schools, but the Shelby County Health Director is firing back and pleading with parents to get their children vaccinated.

The massive COVID-19 bill will weaken the power of businesses, public schools, and local health agencies.

Shelby County Health Department Director, Dr. Michelle Taylor–who’s been critical of the governor’s plans–said right now things have not changed for schools.

“The guidance for schools has not changed. There is still a universal mask requirement in our K-through-12 schools, daycares, and Pre-K and until that bill actually goes into effect, the guidance will not change,” Dr. Taylor said.

She is urging parents to get their kids vaccinated.

“That’s going to give that extra layer of protection that frankly many families have been waiting for almost an entire year,” she said.
 
Regarding COVID cases, there were 96 new cases as of Wednesday compared to 84 last week. The seven-day average also ticked up a bit to 86 cases versus 84 a week ago.

Now that kids ages five to eleven are eligible for the COVID vaccine, more than 1,100 children have been vaccinated.

“We know we’re going to start to see that vaccination rate rise. We’re excited to know even more people will be protected as we go into the holidays,” Dr. Taylor said. “We really have reached somewhat of a plateau. Of course, we’re still monitoring the numbers daily to make sure we’re not seeing any uptick in outbreaks.”
 
The children’s vaccine will be available at the health department, big box pharmacies, but not at drive through sites and on November 30th, the once popular Pipkin Building mass vaccination site will be shutting down.

“From my understanding the pipkin hasn’t had the volume that it had initially,” she said. “The joint covid task force has decided that we won’t be offering those childhood vaccines at drive through locations just because of the uniqueness of this population.”

Dr. Taylor also announced Wednesday the local vaccine distribution effort will be transferred on December 1st from the city of Memphis back to Shelby County government.

As you may recall, the state had eliminated the health department from the process after discovering wasted doses of the vaccine.