November 28, 2020

City meeting disrupted after argument breaks out over mask usage by elected officials

Elected officials in a Mississippi city got into a dispute after some refused to wear masks to guard against the new coronavirus, prompting the mayor to clear out the room and enforce social distancing between board members after the meeting restarted.

The feud in McComb meant the only way the public could watch the Board of Selectmen conduct business Tuesday night was on a video feed with poor audio quality, the Enterprise-Journal reported.

Mississippi remains under Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ order for people to wear masks in public. McComb also has a local mask mandate.

“It is very hard for our police officers or anyone else to enforce the mandate when we won’t even follow it ourselves,” Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said.

During an executive session, selectmen Devante Johnson and Ronnie Brock left the room because fellow board members Ted Tullos and Michael Cameron did not have their faces covered.

“I’m not going back in there if he ain’t going to wear a mask,” Johnson told board attorney Angela Cockerham outside the room.

Cockerham went back into the room. Brock and Johnson followed.

Tullos, who tested positive for the coronavirus during this summer, said he has health issues that make it hard for him to wear a mask for long. Cameron did not say why he did not wear a mask.

Meanwhile, a state lawmaker who is recovering from COVID-19 is imploring people to “wear a dang mask.”

Republican Sen. Joel Carter of Gulfport told WLOX-TV he was exposed to the virus at a dinner in July and started showing symptoms a week later. Within hours of symptoms, Carter was being treated with a hydroxychloroquine and a steroid. He said he’s feeling better now, but the virus knocked him down for about 10 days.

“It literally felt like I was being pressed between two cars and being crushed,” Carter said. “That’s how bad the body pain was. I couldn’t sleep. I just laid in bed at night moaning.”

The state Health Department said Thursday that Mississippi, with a population of about 3 million, has had at least 80,695 reported cases and at least 2,399 deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday evening. That’s an increase of 585 confirmed cases and 26 deaths from numbers reported the day before.

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. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most but can be more severe or fatal for some, especially older adults and those with underlying health conditions.