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To mask or not to mask: What are the guidelines?

“It obviously makes us a little more gun shy about these things,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Baptist Memorial Infectious Disease.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County continues to see a decline in COVID cases. This has many wondering when the September mask mandate will be lifted.

We get it. It can be a little confusing.

Last time Shelby County’s COVID cases were below average, the mask mandate was lifted.

This time, it is still in place.

What goes into making the decision to mask up or down?

“It’s certainly harder to plant the flag and declare victory after what we’ve been through last time,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Baptist Memorial Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist.

When the last mask mandate was in place, we started to see a decline in COVID cases. As numbers hit a low, the mask mandate was lifted.

Then, crept in the Delta variant.

“It obviously makes us a little more gun shy about these things,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

If you are wondering why the mask mandate has not been lifted yet even though we have remained below case average, Dr. Threlkeld said it is because health officials are being extra cautious.

“Delta is a level up on contagion, so in that, I think would be an implicit potential problem of having the thing come back a little bit more quickly, just based on our decrease in avoidance behavior. Because it is a more contagious virus by a fair amount,” said Dr. Threlkeld. “It’s a lot more dangerous to kind of rise up again if we relax too soon.”

They are taking baby steps.

On the bright side, we are in a different position than we were after the first mask mandate was lifted.

“We’re in a better situation than before because there does not seem to be any particular increased contagion variant or increased resistant variant yet on the horizon,” said Dr. Threlkeld.

While things are looking up, health officials still want to tread lightly before letting any guards down.

Dr. Threlkeld said any mask mandate decisions would come from the health department and government levels.