Downtown Memphis business, citizens react to governor’s call to end public health orders

Mixed reaction to potential mask mandate changes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced during Tuesday’s press conference that he has requested Shelby County, among other high-populated localities, to remove its mask mandate and business restrictions by Memorial Day weekend.

WMC took to Beale Street to ask locals and tourists, alike, their thoughts regarding the governor’s deadline.

“I think Memorial Day is too soon,” just considering that people are pausing trying to get their vaccine,” said Memphis resident Christina Hendricks.

Hendricks said she has a chronic illness and is more susceptible to catching COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want a return to pre-COVID times.

“I can sympathize with that,” she said, “because it’s hard not being around people, hugging people and everything.”

Others who did not want to go on camera were divided on the issue, some saying it is too soon to start lifting public health guidelines and others saying it’s not soon enough.

“I think there will still be people that will wear them [masks]. I think it will be easier to dine out,” said Robin Joyce, owner of By the Brewery.

Joyce’s downtown restaurant was opened during the pandemic.

All she and her staff has known is masks and limited capacity.

Joyce said if Memphis and Shelby County abide by the governor’s request, she will not be enforcing her own mandate or limited capacity in the days following Memorial Day Weekend.

“We certainly wouldn’t ask anyone to leave. It’s a personal comfort level,” Joyce said.

The potential of seating more customers, as well as the weather warming up, is almost perfect timing for By the Brewery.

“People are getting together, the holidays are coming, kids will be out of school,” Joyce said. “I can’t say it’s a new beginning, but a lot of times, people use summer as ‘Ah! Summer.’ You know, a time to kick back.”

However, the thought of seeing a full restaurant or business with few to no masks has a different impact on Hendricks.

“Knowing that everyone wasn’t vaccinated, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that, especially with me having a chronic illness. I wouldn’t feel too safe,” Hendricks said.

The mask mandates and public health guidelines are still left up to the City of Memphis and Shelby County.

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