MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, even after mounting pressure from several state politicians and public health organizations.
Now a group of county and municipal mayors are discussing coming together for a mask mandate among municipalities in West Tennessee.
A Zoom call Thursday has begun the process of potentially creating a makeshift mask mandate across West Tennessee.
The call was led by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald to discuss forming a coalition, of sorts, to ask counties to individual institute a mask mandate with no statewide mask mandate expected.
The Zoom call Thursday included many county and municipal mayors in West Tennessee as well as health experts from the Shelby County and Madison County health departments, all discussing the value of a mask requirement.
“The number one priority is to get more of our regional partners, more of the local leaders around our 21 counties to adopt mandatory mask requirements,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.
Shelby County’s mask mandate has been in effect since July.
With Governor Bill Lee repeatedly opposing pressure to institute a statewide mask mandate, Mayors Harris and McDonald said the responsibility falls on local government.
“We’ve just got to do a better job with a unified voice at the local level,” Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald said.
“The State is just not going to act,” Mayor Harris said. “Do what we can at the local level to protect our people.”
No decision was reached on the call.
Both Mayors said the discussion was beneficial and most were receptive to the idea with the exception of one unnamed county mayor.
“Only one mayor from a County that’s in West Tennessee but really close to the river, that said he’s not doing it,” Mayor McDonald said. “He not going to do a mask mandate, he says they have a 4 percent reproductive rate.”
Harris and McDonald said local health experts believe additional mask mandates across West Tennessee would benefit all areas, including Shelby County.
“There’s a lot of cross-contamination because so many people in these other counties come to Shelby County for their jobs,” Mayor McDonald said.
“So we have got to make sure we expand our approach and take up a regional approach,” Mayor Harris said.
Mayor Lee and Mayor McDonald say they will now speak 1 on 1 in the coming days to each individual mayor, with an ultimate goal of having as many counties and municipalities as possible instituting their own mask initiatives.