MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Transmission rates have dropped to low enough levels to eliminate the county’s mask mandate, Shelby County health officials said during their weekly COVID-19 task force meeting Thursday.

“At the height of this last surge we were in a high transmission area as designated by the CDC. Now with our test positivity level below five percent and our level of cases, we’re considered ‘moderate transmission,’” Health Department Director Dr. Michelle Taylor said.

Still, masks remained “highly recommended,” especially in public spaces, Taylor said.

“Yes we dropped the requirement, but we are still highly encouraging it because if you’re going into any public space you cannot safely know the vaccination status or the health status of all the people you are going to be around,” she said.

In accordance with the new directive, the FedEx Forum announced Thursday its guests would no longer have to wear masks, though they are still required for children under 12. All others must present proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter the Grizzlies’ home court facility.

However, there are some places masks are still required, like schools, public transit and daycares.

Taylor also stressed people who work in high-contact environments like servers, bartenders and hairstylists should continue to wear masks.

Knowing the vaccination and health statuses of the people around you is key to deciding whether to mask, she said.

As we head in to the holidays, leaders reminded the community how to gather safely with family.

“I’d like you to start thinking about this. Know your status before you get together. We have lots of testing capacity whether through a private provider or public sites,” Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said.

If case rates go back up, the mask mandate will be reinstated, officials said.