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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

'Nice to feel a sense of normalcy again' | BBQ contest contestants, attendees react to new mask guidelines

The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest came against backdrop of severely reduced mask guidelines from CDC and Shelby County.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — "Everyone feels good about it. They really do. It's a big turning point," Ray Lampe.

Lampe - a pitmaster - is known nationally as Dr. BBQ.

He and others at the the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest beamed with pride Friday, one day after the CDC said those fully vaccinated - for the most part - no longer need to wear masks in public.

"It's just so good to get to the end of it. Whatever your views are on the thing, let's get it over with," Lampe said.

"We had a whole year we couldn't really do anything - kind of feel like some sense of normalcy again," Blake Slaughter added.

The CDC now says anyone who is fully vaccinated doesn't need to wear a mask or social distance inside or outside, and group gatherings large or small are OK.

Masks are still required on planes, buses, and trains and private businesses can still impose mask requirements.

"I think you are going to see different businesses make different choices based on the status of their staff - and also based on the risk of their particular business. With health care being an obvious example where we are going to continue to mask," Dr. Jon McCullers with the Shelby County COVID-19 Joint Task Force said.

The Shelby County Health Department tweaked the next health directive - announced Wednesday but which takes effect Saturday - to reflect the new CDC guidance.

"Overall, I think this is a good thing. I think it's a step in the right direction," Dr. McCullers said.

The new health directive lifts many business restrictions - including space limits - and relaxes mask rules in most settings.

Establishments still have the option to require masks for customers and workers.

"I think most businesses are going to go back to normal in terms of capacity and what they do. We will have people at the bars again and the tables will be moved closer together, so we can get more people in," Dr. McCullers said.

Friday, certain national chains announced they'll still require masks, whether you are fully vaccinated or not. They include Kroger, Target, Home Depot, Walgreens, CVS and Dollar General.