Half of Mississippi’s counties now under mask mandate

Updated: Nov. 24, 2020 at 2:41 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves is discussing the latest response to COVID-19 in the state.

The press conference comes as hospitals in the state are becoming inundated with patients as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the state and across the country.

Tuesday’s 53 deaths marked the third highest single-day total in Mississippi since the onset of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is not going away. It’s not going to disappear,” Reeves said. He says Mississippi was able to avoid the national increase in cases for a while, but no longer.

“It’s clear we’re in the middle of a second surge.”

Reeves notes that because hospitalizations lag behind new cases, it’s expected that the hospitalizations will get worse before they get better.

Reeves added 19 counties to the localized mask mandates, in addition to the 22 that were already in place. This means exactly half of Mississippi’s counties are now under a mask mandate.

The new counties include:

Alcorn, Attala, Bolivar, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lincoln, Lowndes, Neshoba, Panola, Perry, Prentiss, Stone, Tippah, Tishomingo, and Union.

The previous 22 counties still under the mandate are:

Benton, Carroll, Covington, DeSoto, Forrest, Harrison, Hinds, Humphreys, Jackson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Leflore, Lee, Madison, Marshall, Montgomery, Pontotoc, Rankin, Tate, Winston, Itawamba, and Yalobusha.

These counties must also limit social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.

Reeves said it’s imperative that each individual makes safety a priority this Thanksgiving holiday.

“I’m not gonna stand up here and tell you that you can’t be with family, because each Mississippian has to make their own decisions, “ Reeves said. “I will tell you that the risk is greater for you to unknowingly pass the virus on to someone that you love dearly.”

Regarding a coronavirus vaccine that’s expected to soon be available, Reeves says distribution will be fair.

”I can’t wait to have access to it… until that time comes, we have to bridge the gap, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It will be distributed in record time, and in an appropriate manner, but it’s not going to be distributed tomorrow,” Reeves added.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the number of cases is likely to increase more over the next few days because of a lag in reporting.

He also says the number of deaths is likely underreported. He says Mississippi’s total deaths are up by 18 percent from last year--an increase of over 5,000 more than was expected.

He also warned that it’s not just elderly people who are at risk of death from the virus. The death rate for those 50-64 years old is 2.3 percent, which is much higher than any flu.

“If you have any symptoms that could be coronavirus, you could have coronavirus,” he said. “...even if it’s just nausea.”

He recommends everyone celebrating Thanksgiving to keep their gatherings small and to stay outside if possible.

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