Diocese Statement on Mask Mandate for Catholic Schools in Shelby County
The letter below has been shared with our Clergy, Principals, Teachers, Staff, Parents and Students. The letter states the Diocesan compliance with the mask mandate for the parochial schools and St. Benedict in Auburndale High School in Shelby County issued by the Shelby County Health Department on Friday, August 6. This does not include St. Mary’s Grade School or Sacred Heart High School in Madison County. Shelby County will re-evaluate the situation, as needed.
On Friday, August 6, the Shelby County Health Department issued an amended Health Order No. 24 calling for universal masking in all K-12 schools, preschools and day care centers, for teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. This is in alignment with recently released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This amendment is deemed necessary due to Health Department data that indicates an alarming increase in pediatric COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. More than one quarter of the current, active cases are among those 17 and younger. Hospitals are also reporting an increase in COVID-19 pediatric cases, many requiring intensive care and ventilator support.
“Masks, when worn correctly and consistently over the nose and mouth, have been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious respiratory Diseases,” stated Dr. Michelle Taylor, Director, Shelby County Health Department.
Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph says vaccinations are still the best protection against infection of COVID-19. Masks provide protection in crowded indoor settings such as schools.
In light of the new directive issued by the Shelby County Health Department, Bishop Talley and School Superintendent, Nic Antione, have stated that the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee will uphold our obligation to follow this Health Order in Shelby County.
Effective Monday, August 9, 2021, masks are required in any indoor area of a K-12 school, pre-K program or daycare facility. This new health directive from Shelby County, however, does not change the Decree issued by Bishop Talley on July 14, which takes effect on August 21 as it relates to our public celebrated Masses in our church buildings.
August 8, 2021
Very Rev. J. Keith Stewart
Diocese of Memphis