Visitors divided on whether mask mandate affects Memphis tourism


Beale Street in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tourists are talking about the current mask mandate in Memphis and Shelby County, and opinions differ about its effect on tourism.

Along Beale Street you will find tourists, day into night. It’s also where you will find reminders of Shelby County’s latest health directive stating masks must be worn indoors.

“I think it does affect tourism,” said Lee Hendrycks of Missouri, who was making a stop in Memphis on his 30th anniversary with his bride of 30 years, Dawn Hendrycks. “I think it does stop some people from coming.”

Regulations differ depending on where they travel. So do their opinions about masking.

“I think people should have their own freedoms to wear a mask or not,” Lee Hendrycks said, adding that he will comply when face coverings are required.     

Dawn Hendrycks, a nursing home employee, says she is convinced masks can be life-saving.

During the month of July, she said the place where she works experienced a first outbreak of COVID, resulting in the deaths of nearly a dozen people living at the nursing home. She said although she was in close contact, she was not infected.

“Because I had to wear a mask, it’s the reason I didn’t get the virus,” she said.

As the health department implements more directives, they are also dealing with the pandemic of the unvaccinated.

“I personally wasn’t going to get vaccinated, but because she did and her line of work, I went ahead and did it,” Lee Hendrycks said.

That is what local health leaders are hoping others will do as well, even if it means fewer visitors.

Some argue this is a short-term inconvenience, for the potential of long-term success.

The latest Health Order, requiring masks indoors, is effective through September 30th.

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