Mask mandate lifted for fully vaccinated in Shelby County

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 16, 2021 1:18 PM CT | Published: May 14, 2021 5:05 PM CT

In a tweet late Friday, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced the end to the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people in the county.

CDC guidelines prompt county to reconsider new directive

The change will be reflected in the rewritten Health Directive 21, which goes into effect at 12:01 Saturday morning, May 15.

The change follows guidance the Centers for Disease Control issued Thursday that said fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in gatherings inside or out, including large-scale events.

Harris said the CDC decision, echoed in remarks President Joe Biden made Thursday afternoon, was “a real milestone for the nation and Shelby County.”

According to the revised directive, fully vaccinated people must still wear masks in these circumstances:

a. You are awaiting, boarding, disembarking, or traveling on public airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares as they are traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories. This includes hubs, airports, terminals, stations and ports of entry.

b. You are working or visiting at a business, restaurant, school, or any other establishment that requires you to wear a mask (regardless of whether you are vaccinated) and has posted “mask required” signs at frequently used entrances.

c. You are entering property on which a public authority (local, state, or federal) has a propriety interest, and that authority requires you to wear a mask while in the property and has posted “mask required” notice signs at frequently used entrances.

 A number have said they will continue to require masks, including Kroger and Home Depot.

This week, several leading infectious disease physicians here said they had worries about a more liberal masking policy in parts of South and North Memphis where vaccination has not been well-received. 

Dr. Jon McCullers, who is a member of the Shelby County Public Health advisory board, said eliminating the mask mandate would necessitate making more contact in low update ZIP codes. But in lieu of Gov. Bill Lee’s assessment that the public health hazard of the pandemic had passed, McCullers said he supported a more liberal masking policy.

The Rev. Charlie Caswell, executive director of Legacy of Legends Community Development Corp. in Frayser, is concerned about the risk. 

“Hopefully, it will make people take it more seriously and go ahead and take the vaccination. I think people had gotten comfortable with where we were. As they see that more people are changing, I think they will do it,” he said.

Caswell says he was an example of the reluctance. 

“I just got mine vaccination three days ago. I was hesitant myself, especially after the Johnson & Johnson thing. My wife went and got hers and I decided I needed to do the same.

“I posted on Facebook when I got my shot,” he said, noting he got many comments, including from McCullers.

Caswell, who also serves on the public health advisory board, said was beginning to feel increasingly uncomfortable that he was not vaccinated. 

Legacy of Legends is located in 38127, where 19,476 people per 100,000 have been vaccinated, nearly one third of the number in Germantown and Collierville ZIP codes 38138 and 38139 where 59,657 per 100,000 people have received at least one dose.

The new directive does not include the language that seemed to contradict when masks were required for vaccinated people and was a point of concern for restaurant owners who worried they were still going to have to require masking even though a other wording in the directive left the decision to them.

Thursday, after the CDC released its guidance, Shelby County said it likely would rewrite its directive.

McCullers suggested clarifying what struck many as contradictions would help. 

Under the new directive, masks are highly recommended for people who are not vaccinated in the following situations:

1. You are in a public setting around people who don’t live in your household, especially when indoors and when it may be difficult for you to stay six feet apart from people who don’t live with you.

2. You are around people who don’t live with you, regardless of whether you are inside your home or inside someone else’s home.

3. You are inside your home with someone who is sick with symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19.

4. You are engaged in outdoor activities and physical distancing of six feet or more from persons who are not members of your household is not feasible, regardless of crowd size.





Mask Mandate Health Directive 21
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers business news and features for The Daily Memphian.