Governor announces statewide mask mandate and delayed starts for schools in some counties

Governor announces statewide mask mandate and delayed starts for schools in some counties

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -We’ve seen several medical professionals and some state lawmakers calling for a statewide mask mandate. And now, the state’s getting one. It will be in effect August 5-17.

Governor Reeves is leaving most of the decision making in the hands of local districts.

“I believe that the people closest to the actual classrooms are better equipped to make that decision at this time than I am,” said Reeves.

Eight counties will be required to delay school start for grades 7-12 until August 17. Those are: Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower and Washington. But Reeves did say this about other districts.

“It’s especially important that we consider delaying school for older kids, the middle schoolers and the high schoolers, because we know they are just as likely to transmit as well as young adults,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “Also, we know how well they do it, right? But the younger kids are more likely to benefit specifically from in person learning. Part of it is a risk adjustment that we have to look at.”

“I think the school districts should strongly consider, particularly for those in grades 7-12, amending their plan to reopen 8 to 10 to 12 days from now,” explained Reeves. “Give us the time hopefully for the number of cases to decline.”

Teachers like Max Vanlandingham who have been calling for a statewide delayed start, say that’s not enough.

“It’s kind of frustrating because it’s the same old. Nobody listens to the people who are in the trenches,” said Vanlandingham. “So, we’ve been screaming this from the top of our lungs since the middle of last month.”

All students and staff in every public school district will be required to wear masks when they return for in-person instruction when they do return for in-person instruction. Still, teachers like Vanlandingham are disappointed.

“We are advocating for everybody, not just those in hot zones,” he said of the desire to see a statewide delay. “Because this effects everybody.”

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs made this note.

“As far as starting traditional school in the near future, I think it’s nuts,” said Dobbs. “We can’t have unmitigated risks as far as the schools go. Now, by and large, the districts have planned pretty thoroughly, some more than others.”

Reeves stresses this is the beginning of the conversation surrounding schools, not the end and plans could change.

These school-related orders only apply to the state’s public schools and will not impact any virtual learning plans, even in those eight counties where the start date is delayed for grades 7-12 till August 17. That applies to in-person instruction.

Empower Mississippi shared this statement in response to the governor’s new order:

“Every day our children go without access to a quality education represents a danger to their future. In this unsettled environment, all Mississippi families deserve the option to choose between in-person and at-home instruction. The state should take seriously the opportunity to offer a full-time, statewide virtual public school option to any student who is not comfortable returning to the classroom given districts’ differing abilities to offer both models to all students.”

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