Reeves: County mask mandates reduced COVID spread, but won’t work statewide

Governor cites lack of community buy-in, mixed messages on masks as reasons
Updated: Jul. 8, 2020 at 11:30 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Despite a coronavirus outbreak at the Mississippi State Capitol reigniting concerns about the need for mask requirements, Gov. Tate Reeves has decided not to issue a statewide mandate, in part, because he doesn’t believe enough people will actually follow it.

“We believe very strongly that if you wear a mask, you can protect yourself and your neighbors. Bottom line. That’s just... we believe that to be fact at this point,” Reeves said during a briefing Wednesday. “The experts believe it, and I believe the experts.”

Reeves said there has to be community buy-in -- elected leaders and business owners adopting the requirements -- for it to truly be effective.

“When we went into Attala County and Neshoba County and Leake County and Jasper County, and then later added Wayne County, we had buy-in from almost every single elected official. We implemented mask orders for those counties, and it worked,” Reeves said.

A 3 On Your Side analysis of data from the Mississippi State Department of Health shows most counties once listed as hotspots by the Mississippi State Department of Health have seen dramatic decreases in new cases.

Only Wayne County continues to show marginal growth.

Reeves believes masks prevent outbreaks. Whether it could have prevented the spread of COVID-19 at the State Capitol remains to be seen.

Thus far, 36 people have tested positive for the virus. Twenty-six of those are lawmakers, including House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said not every legislator has been tested, either.

“There’s several more that we’re trying to track down. That number will almost certainly grow,” Dobbs said. “We recommend everybody social distance under every circumstance. The virus doesn’t care why you do it. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing something important or something critical.”

Dobbs said lawmakers were tested Monday.

Typically the incubation period is 14 days, meaning some lawmakers could have a false sense of security if they initially tested negative because the virus might not be detectable yet.

3 On Your Side asked Reeves if he would get tested again since he was exposed less than two weeks ago.

He said there wasn’t a specific plan to do so at this point.

“I will tell you that over the last six or seven days, I’ve spent the better part of every hour of every day in the conference room at our office working on bills, and so I don’t have any intention of going to large gatherings over the next four or five days,” Reeves said.

Reeves told reporters part of his frustration also comes from people not taking the virus seriously because of mixed messages on masks from national and international organizations early on.

Even though nearly a dozen cities and counties in Mississippi have mandated masks in recent days -- some just requiring the face coverings in businesses -- part of the reason people aren’t complying could be because we don’t see an immediate impact from our actions.

“The things we do this afternoon and the things we do tomorrow aren’t going to have any effect on tomorrow’s numbers. They’re not going to have any effect on next Monday’s numbers. We’re two weeks or three weeks out from really having an effect on any measures we put in place,” Reeves said.

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