MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The indoor mask mandate in Shelby County will expire for private businesses, though they continue to be highly recommended.

The Shelby County Health Department issued a new health order Wednesday, effective immediately. It notes that COVID numbers have been decreasing locally, and the area is no longer considered a high-transmission area by the CDC.

Due to the decline in the numbers, the Department “highly recommends” that businesses continue to require masks in indoor, public settings — but does not require it.

It’s now up to private businesses to decide whether masks are required. 

Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist with Baptist, says it’s important to remember that masks are still recommended by health experts in indoor, crowded situations particularly around unvaccinated people and wearing a face covering is just one factor to stopping the spread of COVID.

“There’s distancing, there’s of course, the prime one, getting vaccinated that also lead to that protection. So we tend to switch back and forth between vaccine mandates and mask mandates and vaccine mandates and worry about the mandates more than we do realize that this is a stacked protection,” he said.

Masks will still be required in schools, on public transit and in buildings where signs are posted.

You can read the order here.