Governor expands mask mandate to 10 more Mississippi counties, 23 of 82 counties now require masks

Published 3:47 pm Monday, July 20, 2020

Starting Monday, people will be required to wear masks in public in 23 out of 82 counties in Mississippi, per a new executive order by Gov. Tate Reeves.

“COVID-19 is spreading and killing in our state. It’s not a hypothetical – it is happening,” Reeves said in a statement Monday morning.

The executive order is an expansion of a past order that required mask-wearing in 13 counties in the state. Reeves has refused to impose a blanket mask requirement and has said he will only mandate mask-wearing in counties that have seen the highest increases in new coronavirus cases.

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In a Twitter thread Monday morning, Reeves said people have leaped for a “silver bullet” solution to the pandemic, whether it be ventilators, shelter-in-place orders or statewide mask mandates.

“Here’s the hard truth: there’s no single answer,” he wrote. “All of those measures can be useful. None can be our savior. There’s no magic solution coming to save us all from personal responsibility. There is no piece of paper that a politician can sign to make this go away.”

In another tweet, Reeves said he’s grateful to see more people standing behind masks and what they can do to prevent the spread of the virus.

The governor’s new order also restricts public gatherings in those additional 10 counties. The governor announced that in those counties, he will limit gatherings to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors. Until earlier this month, the statewide limit was 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors in all counties.

The new restrictions apply to Bolivar, Covington, Forrest, Humphreys, Panola, Sharkey, Simpson, Tallahatchie, Tate, and Walthall counties.

The existing restrictions are in some of the most heavily populated counties in the state: Hinds, Madison and Rankin in the Jackson area, DeSoto County in the north and Harrison and Jackson counties on the coast. The restrictions are also in smaller counties with high rates of the virus: Claiborne, Grenada, Jefferson, Quitman, Sunflower, Washington and Wayne.

The executive orders will expire at 8 a.m. on August 3.

Mississippi has a population of about 3 million. The Health Department said Monday the state has had at least 43,889 confirmed cases and at least 1,358 deaths from the coronavirus as of Sunday evening. That was an increase of 1,251 cases and three deaths from numbers reported the day before.

At least 3,162 cases of the virus have been confirmed in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, with at least 651 virus-related deaths in those facilities, the department said.

The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.