MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Thursday, for the first time, Shelby County Health Director Dr. Michelle Taylor addressed the public on the new health directive, one day after it took effect and lifted mask requirements in businesses and indoor settings.
The directive - which took effect immediately Wednesday and will be in place through November 30th - still strongly encourages masking indoors.
Masks are still required for indoor school settings.
"COVID-19 is still very real in this community. It's still traveling from person to person, albeit not as fast, and if you want to do the most to protect yourself and your family and you community, then we are still highly recommending that you were your mask in indoor public spaces," Dr. Taylor said.
The health director also encouraged certain workers in direct contact with large portions of the public daily - including servers, bartenders and retail workers - to continue to mask up as a precaution.
"My advice to them is that they should continue to wear their masks. They deal with the public every day. There is no way to know the vaccination status or health status of many of the people they are serving, and if we don't know anything else about COVID-19, we know that a lot of people can walk around with the virus and be asymptomatic, meaning no symptoms, but still be transmitting virus," Dr. Taylor added.
A private business still has the right to require masks inside their establishments.
The new health directive comes as SCHD reported downward trends of active COVD cases in every age range, including pediatric cases.
The 282 active pediatric cases Thursday was down from 326 this time last week and 558 two weeks ago.
The current 7-day average test positivity rate is at 3.6%. It is also approaching the record 2.3% weekly low recorded in June.
The Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force also continues its planning for when the FDA gives the final go-ahead to allow the vaccination of 5 to 11-year-olds.
Those with the task force made a tentative order to the state of the first doses for that age group to be prepared, so they could put doses in arms as soon as they get the green light to do so.
Ahead of the holidays, those with the task force also asked the public to get tested before family gatherings, to be precautious and limit potential clusters.
"Whether you are vaccinated or not, go get a test and know you status," City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said. "That way you could get get together worry free about whether anyone has been exposed."