November 27, 2020

Governor delays school openings in ‘hot spots’ due to coronavirus spread

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Tuesday afternoon he would delay the start of some schools, but only in areas deemed “hot spots” and only for 7th through 12th grades, and require all state schools to mandate use of face masks.

“After reviewing every school’s reopening plans, I am issuing an executive order delaying the start of some 7th-12th schools in hot spots,” Reeves wrote on social media ahead of a news conference. “We are requiring masks in schools for teachers and students. We are also requiring masks at public gatherings statewide for two weeks—in a push to allow schools to safely reopen.”

Reeves said he made the decision after reviewing reopening plans for each public school district in the state, nearly 600 pages of documents.

“We must pump the brakes in the hardest-hit areas,” Reeves said.

Those counties include: Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower and Washington counties.

Those counties, Reeves said. have more than an absolute number of 200 cases and greater than 500 per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks.

Reeves said the state knows this year will be tough for everyone involved, but that it’s a fluid situation.

“Understand that our decision here today is the beginning fo the conversation not the end of the conversation,” he said. “We know 20201-21 is going to be the most challenging school year we will face.

“We know that virtual learning will be part of the equation this year.”

Mississippi has become the focus of national attention as its per capita number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in July.

More than 31,000 positive cases of the virus were reported during July and nearly 600 Mississippians died from the virus.

Reeves said in balancing the concerns over virus spread he always weighed the other concerns from children, some of which depend on school districts for meals and other resources.

“Our kids face, in many instances without a stable home life, real challenges,” he said. “If there is anything essential in this world, it is our schools.”

“There is no option before us without risk,” Reeves said.