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Speculation growing over whether Reeves will reinstate a mask mandate

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(Photo by Julian Wan on Unsplash)

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Mississippi, speculation about whether Gov. Tate Reeves will reinstate a mask mandate has also grown.

Monday, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson tweeted that the state should reconsider implementing a mandate once again.

After a surge in July and August put the state’s hospitals in danger of being overwhelmed, the governor allowed the statewide mandate to expire Sept. 30 after cases in Mississippi fell throughout most of September. The Magnolia State was the only state to drop its mandate. Cases in Mississippi leveled off toward the end of the month.

Cases began rising again in October. Last week’s seven-day averages reached a high of nearly 800 cases with two days, Thursday and Friday, reporting more than 1,000 cases each. During the same time frame in September, seven-day averages were generally under 500.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said last week that he expects the governor to announce measures to curb COVID-19 cases, possibly mandating masks on a county-by-county basis instead of statewide. He admitted, though, that he did not know Reeves’ plan of action.

Thursday in a social media post, Reeves said he wanted to be “cautious and limited in using executive action.”

Dobbs has expressed increasing concern over the number of rising cases.

“I do think we are on the front end of something that could be bad,” he said in a Zoom meeting Oct. 12 before the week’s worst numbers came in.

“The last time we saw that was before the summer surge. That doesn’t mean we can’t turn that around. It’s not that hard,” he added.

The governor will hold a live news conference Monday at 2:30 p.m.

COVID-19

Half of Mississippi’s counties are now under governor’s mask mandates

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Gov. Tate Reeves during a news conference Oct. 19, 2020. (photo via video screen grab)

Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced a continuation of his county-level attempt to lower the number of COVID-19 cases in Mississippi by adding 19 counties to the list of those under expanded restrictions.

Half of Mississippi’s counties — 41 of 82 — are now under mask mandates. The counties added Tuesday are Alcorn, Attala, Bolivar, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Jefferson Davis, Jones, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lincoln, Lowndes, Neshoba, Panola, Perry, Prentiss, Stone, Tippah, Tishomingo and Union. Click here to see a map showing the rest of the counties under the expanded restrictions and self-imposed mask mandates.

“This is a critical time,” Reeves said of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, asking Mississippians to please be extra cautious and look out for loved ones.

“There is much more COVID-19 around us,” he added, emphasizing that there is a greater risk to unknowingly pass the virus to loved ones as the state experiences a surge in new cases.

“The risk is greater,” he said.

Numerous health officials have called on the governor to issue a statewide mask mandate, but so far, he has resisted taking that action.

“If you issue the mask mandates on a county-by-county basis, based on where the number of cases is the largest, then that is the best strategy to convince the most number of our fellow Mississippians to wear a mask,” Reeves said.

To prove the point, the governor compared other states where mask mandates have been in place for months that now have much higher rates of infection than Mississippi.

He also said that he believes wearing a mask is helpful in slowing the spread of the virus and urged all Mississippi residents to wear masks in public.

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USM versus UAB football game canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

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USM's Golden Eagles (photo courtesy USM Athletics)

The University of Southern Mississippi football game against the University of Alabama-Birmingham has been canceled due to COVID-19.

The game, which was supposed to be held Friday, is called off because of COVID-19 infections within USM’s football program.

This will be the third game this season that the Golden Eagles have canceled or postponed a game, but they are still expected to play Friday, Dec. 3, against the University of Texas at El Paso.

The Golden Eagles have a 2-7 record, and they currently have no chance of making it to a bowl game this season.

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COVID-19

Chief of UMMC urges Gov. Reeves to re-issue statewide mask mandate

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Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the vice chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, at a press conference at UMMC. (photo courtesy UMMC)

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, who leads the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the state’s only academic health center and largest hospital, directly called Monday for Gov. Tate Reeves to re-issue a statewide mask mandate.

Reeves became the first governor in America to rescind a statewide mask mandate on Sept. 30, and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have steadily climbed since that date. Since the statewide mandate expired, however, Reeves has issued more than a dozen county-by-county mask mandates — a piecemeal approach that has received some criticism from medical experts.

“We do very much believe we should have a statewide mask mandate,” Woodward said Monday at a press conference. “… I think we have reasonable evidence to believe the county-by-county approach is not working. It’s not doing what we need it to do. It is not turning these numbers around for us.

“With the governor being the highest level of state official, I think that sends a big signal for that position to say, ‘We are at a critical point, people. We need to have a statewide mask mandate.’ That sense of urgency is rapidly becoming much more intense and powerful. And what we have been doing hasn’t turned us around.”

Woodward was also vocal in the days leading up to the governor’s first statewide mask mandate in early August. State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, who leads the state’s health department, has recently posted to social media information about the effectiveness of mask mandates.

The rise in COVID-19 cases in Mississippi — a surge only topped by the record spread in July and August — has persisted for nearly two straight months. On Saturday, the state health department reported a single-day record of 1,972 new cases. The seven-day rolling average reached 1,294 over the weekend, which is the highest mark since July 31.

The state health department also reported close to 900 total hospitalizations for people with the virus. That mark is at its highest point since Aug. 26. Health officials on Friday warned the public about managing spread in the cold months and during the holiday season.


This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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