Shelby County leaders hope new mask mandate will keep businesses and restaurants open

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Just hours after a countywide mask mandate in Shelby County went into effect Friday morning, county leaders began spreading the word about why they think masking up will keep businesses and restaurants from shutting down.

“Absolutely, masking will keep the doors open for restaurants and other small businesses,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.

The county mayor, along with the health department director, health officer and county attorney went online to take questions from business owners about the new mask requirements and how to enforce it.

“So, the tool that we have at hand that can make an immediate change in our numbers is masking,” said Shelby County Health Officer Bruce Randolph.

For about an hour, a wide range of questions were asked, such as are masks required if all employees are vaccinated, and should everyone be separated by six feet in common areas?

“Masks are still required because the latest studies show even vaccinated people can transmit the virus, especially the Delta variant,” said Dr. Michelle Taylor, director of the Shelby County Health Department.

Many wanted to know if you can ask a person if they been vaccinated during a job interview.

“I’m aware that employers have and can ask the question. I think the danger is when you start asking why are you not vaccinated,” said Marlinee Clark Iverson, Shelby County attorney.

Others wanted to know if retail employees are expected to enforce the mask mandate with unmasked customers.

“If a person becomes aggravated or hostile, the recommendation, universally, across the country is to contact law enforcement,” Iverson said.

Some also asked about wearing mask while seated at a restaurant bar.

“If you’re sitting there talking and not eating or drink, it’s a good thing to have your mask on,” Randolph said.

Health leaders hope the questions and answers about the new mask mandate will keep business doors open and customers safe.

“Like I said before, we have taken a conservative approach hoping that it gives you some cover hoping that you can continue to stay open,” Taylor said.

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