MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - After weeks of debate, the Memphis City Council’s face covering/mask ordinance has passed. The vote came after more than 450 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Shelby County in 48 hours.
It looks like people in Memphis will have to wear facemasks inside a lot of establishments. The City Council passed its face cover/mask ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday. You don’t have to wear masks outside but you will inside most essential and non essential businesses including restaurants and bars.
“If you’re sick stay home so we don’t have to wear them,” one non-mask wearer said in Downtown Memphis.
In 2020, face masks have become a polarizing subject.
“I wear them about 80 percent of the time,” a Memphis mask-wearer said. “There have been moments, but I try to be good about them.”
Doctors said education about wearing face masks hasn’t been enough as numbers of COVID-19 in the county continue to rise.
“People aren’t doing a great job wearing the masks throughout the region and city so education is not enough,” Baptist Infectious Disease Doctor Steve Threlkeld said.
Memphis City Council members who voted for the mask ordinance said that’s a big reason they voted yes. The version that passed would mandate people wear masks or face coverings in essential businesses like groceries, pharmacies and government buildings as well as non essential businesses. As for bars and restaurants, the ordinance says you have to wear masks while in line but once you’re seated you can take them off.
Dr. Threlkeld said an ordinance like this has a lot of gray area.
“Are you in violation if it’s just on your chin or over your mouth and not over your nose,” Threlkeld said.
Threlkeld was part of the discussion with City Council about the ordinance. In the end, he said both sides have the best of the city in mind. None council members voted for the ordinance and four voted against it.
The ordinance said you can be cited for not wearing a face mask but can’t be fined. While masks aren’t mandated while you’re outside, the ordinance says to maintain social distancing and to have a mask on hand if that’s impossible.
While the mask debate goes on, it looks like Memphis City Council has its input- wear a mask until this pandemic is over.
The ordinance does not go in to effect until it has Mayor Strickland’s signature. The Mayor’s Office said he does plan to sign this ordinance.