Miss. governor extends COVID-19 executive order; 15 counties under mask mandate

Miss. governor extends COVID-19 executive order; 15 counties under mask mandate
Gov. Tate Reeves on Facebook (Source: Facebook)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - As the number of daily average coronavirus cases in Mississippi hits over 1,000 -- the first time in over three months -- Gov. Tate Reeves announced the extension of his “Safe Recovery” executive order through December 11, originally set to expire Wednesday.

His announcement comes after the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 1,256 new cases and 17 new deaths of the coronavirus.

The governor has set additional measures including mask requirements for the following counties: Benton, Carroll, Covington, DeSoto, Forrest, Harrison, Humphreys, Jackson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Leflore, Lee, Marshall, Rankin, and Yalobusha.

Of these fifteen counties with restrictions, nine were already under mask mandates since late October with no significant decline in cases.

Reeves hasn’t publicly addressed the apparent ineffectiveness of the mandates in those areas, instead releasing a statement Wednesday morning.

“I know that we are all tired and ready to move on. But the virus is still here. It’s still working to infect and kill," Reeves said. "We’ve gotten far better at dealing with it, and allowing for life to go on. But we’re not all the way there yet. Keep fighting and protecting the most vulnerable in your life. No matter where you are, please do your best to social distance and wear a mask.”

One of those counties in particular -- DeSoto -- is at an all-time high in terms of its daily cases.

In the last two weeks, that county has had more than a thousand new COVID-19 diagnoses.

Health experts like Dr. Mark Horne, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, say that’s directly tied to a lack of compliance in wearing masks and social distancing.

“Where there is less compliance with the routine basic fundamentals of how we prevent spread of the virus, there are higher rates. If you get a higher concentration of people a greater density of population, that’s a risk," Horne said.

Some Rankin County residents agree with that, saying people there aren’t masking up enough, and that’s why they made the governor’s list.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise. I feel like it should be enforced. Everybody should be wearing a mask so we can go ahead and get this all the way and get life back to normal," said Carrie Cannaday.

Cannaday said she worries about her child because of so many who remain maskless in public.

“I have a toddler. And it makes me feel uneasy, because he’s under the age of two, and he cannot, he cannot wear masks. So he cannot defend himself," Cannaday said.

The penalties for violating Reeves' mask mandate could include six months in jail and a $500 fine, though some county law enforcement agencies, like DeSoto’s sheriff’s department, have said publicly they will not enforce it.

Those potential fines serve as a reminder of why Freddie Williams wants to do his part.

“I want to protect myself and I want to protect my loved ones. It’s the policy to wear one so I try to be obedient to the rules," Williams said.

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