Mayors in Shelby County voice opinions on new calls for statewide mask mandate

Higher transmission of COVID-19 in suburban areas

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - As transmission rates of COVID-19 increase in the suburban areas of Shelby County, local mayors are deciding what steps need to be taken.

One local mayor is taking what he knows and asking the state for help.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to all the Shelby County municipal mayors, and so far have heard back from three of them. Some say they join Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald in his request for a statewide mandate as transmission outside Shelby County is affecting rates and hospitalizations here.

“I think some [mayors] may join me [in my request], I think some may not,” McDonald said.

New calls for mask mandate across Tennessee

“As far as geographically we’ve seen the epicenter of the pandemic move eastward,” David Sweat with the Shelby County Health Department said.

At the latest briefing from the Shelby County COVID-19 joint task force, health officials said the higher transmission of COVID-19 we once saw in more populated areas of Memphis are now moving to the outskirts of the city and into suburban areas which is a natural progression they say.

“Within our county, it’s mostly in the suburbs that border those counties with no mask mandates where we’re really seeing a surge in cases,” said UTHSC Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Jon McCullers.

When it comes to McDonald’s request to Governor Bill Lee for a statewide mask mandate, Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo said, “I join and stand with Mayor McDonald in full support. Today, I have reached out to leadership in the State Executive Branch to make the same request and have sent a letter to Governor Lee requesting a state-wide mask mandate.”

Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman didn’t go so far as to say he plans to request something similar like McDonald and Palazzolo, but said, “We feel that that the rules during this pandemic should be the same across the state, and not just sports, and that goes for tightening or loosening restrictions.”

“A reminder to all Tennesseans masking is a very important part of our comprehensive strategy to fight COVID-19 in our state,” he said.

WATCH: Gov. Lee gives weekly briefing on COVID-19 in Tennessee - Oct. 28

Lee added he believes masking by his staff helped prevent him from catching the virus after being exposed. He and his wife recently ended a self-isolation period after finding out a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Lee has kept a stronghold on his belief every community should make its decision about a mask mandate, but said every community should at least consider one.

“Look at the case count [in your county] and the growth of hospitalizations in their community and certainly consider it,” said Lee.

Collierville Mayor Stan Joyner said he’s waiting to voice his opinion on a statewide mask mandate request until after a mayors call with all Shelby County mayors which is planned to happen Thursday morning.

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