Memphis City Council prepares for final vote on proposed mask ordinance

Memphis City Council to hear final reading of proposed mask ordinance

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tuesday Memphis City Council members will hear a proposed mask ordinance on third reading, marking the final vote on the measure, where its fate will be decided.

Ahead of the vote, one of the measure's sponsors said some changes will be made to the ordinance.

"A lot of this is about protecting each other. My mask protects you. Your mask protects me," said Dr. Jeff Warren.

Shelby County Health Department responds to debate over mask requirement

Warren, a Memphis City Council member and member of the COVID-19 task force is pushing his other colleagues to pass an ordinance on third reading Tuesday to require mask-wearing in public places in the city.

Warren said he’s heard concerns from residents since the debate started weeks ago and noted Monday that any ordinance will not be heavy-handed and will include exemptions.

The goal, he said, is getting broad community compliance.

“We’ve had a number of people let us know they have COPD or asthma, some are claustrophobic, some have kids with autism that just can’t wear anything on their face, so we’ve adjusted it to allow for that,” said Warren. “We are not going to have any penalties when this first comes out.”

Weeks ago, Shelby County Commissioners debated requiring people to wear masks in public but ultimately stopped short of that after county attorney Marlinee Iverson said in a memo the authority fell to the Shelby County Health Department.

Shelby County Commission resolution urges health officials to require masks

"Masks do make a difference in reducing the transmission of COVID-19 in our community," said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department Director.

Haushalter said the agency continues to strongly encourage mask usage, but at this point, it is not a county-wide mandate.

She told WMC Action News 5 on Monday any action from the Memphis City Council would send a message to city residents about the importance of mask-wearing.

"Any time elected officials take a stand on a health issue, it has significant weight," she said.

Warren said Memphis Police Department would not be involved in enforcing any type of mask ordinance should the ordinance pass. The Memphis City Council meets virtually Tuesday and will discuss the ordinance at their full meeting at 3:30 p.m.

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