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Residents speak out on Governor Bill Lee's latest executive order on mask requirements

WATN Memphis logo WATN Memphis 4/28/2021 Rebecca Butcher
a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by WANT Memphis

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee's order concerning mask requirements is drawing a mixed reaction. The year 2020 was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic where it dominated headlines around the world. Memphis saw restrictions placed on businesses and a mask mandate like other cities across Tennessee – but now Governor Lee is requesting Shelby County lifts such COVID-19 safety measures.

“I don’t think it’s the right time to lift the mask mandate restrictions,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Manoj Jain. “I really think that we have to maintain the level of distancing and masking that we’ve been doing because there are variant strains in the community.”  

Dr. Jain, a public health advisor to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, said the virus can accelerate at any time.   

“It would be ideal if we could do it when we get to herd immunity and so yeah more people getting vaccinated,” said Jain. “But we really need to see those numbers come down. We’re seeing about 130, 140 cases per day in our county. That’s too many.”   

One resident agrees with Governor Lee’s executive order arguing it’s a good idea because vaccines are widely available.  

“If you get the vaccine you are protected you shouldn’t be forced to wear a mask if you don’t want to,” said resident Devin Franklin. “But if you still feel the personal. I need to wear a mask it’s all up to you.”  

Dr. Jain believes the governor's order sends the wrong message. 

“I’m really concerned that an order like this may make people think that the pandemic is over,” said the doctor. “That we’re through with this, but really the virus is still in our community it’s still there in large numbers.”  

Meanwhile, residents like Franklin are prepared to deal with the ramifications of COVID-19 in the future.    

“It’s never really going to be over, you know,” he said. “It’s going to be lingering around. Especially for a couple of years.”

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