Some Adams County residents protest mask mandate

Published 10:02 pm Monday, July 13, 2020

NATCHEZ — A group of approximately 30 people gathered on the Natchez bluff Monday evening to protest the recently passed City of Natchez and Adams County resolutions that make wearing face masks or facial coverings mandatory in public spaces and private businesses.

The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen and Adams County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed joint resolutions during a special-called joint meeting July 3 making masks mandatory.

The move came as national, state and local COVID-19 numbers began spiking in recent weeks to the highest rates of infection since the pandemic began in March.

Some business owners and employees and healthcare workers took part in Monday’s demonstration, which was organized by Callie Godfrey of Natchez.

“Everyone should have a right to decide if they want to wear a mask or not. It’s a basic human right,” Godfrey said. “I feel that wearing masks is a personal choice. Rather than making masks mandatory, I feel that people should make their own health choices.”

The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states “everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings and when around people who don’t live in (their) household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

The masks are worn to prevent infected people, who may not even know they are infected with COVID-19, from spreading the disease to others, not to protect the individuals wearing masks, the CDC says.

However, some protesters said they believe masks are ineffective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Laura McCan, who is an RN, said she feels the mask mandate is unlawful and unnecessary.

“I’m an RN and the COVID virus particles are much smaller than even what an N-95 mask can filter,” McCan said. “Cloth masks, surgical masks and even an N-95 does not filter anything the size of what COVID is. You have normal healthy people walking around wearing a mask that isn’t keeping them from getting COVID but it is keeping them from being exposed to normal things that help build up your immune system.”

Other protesters said the mask mandate is hurtful to business owners who are already struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.

Several said they would rather take their business elsewhere than comply with the mandate and felt that many other business patrons would do the same.

“I think its ridiculous,” said Betty Lou Nettles. “It’s OK if you want to wear a mask, but don’t tell me I have to wear one. … I’m not a business owner, but I am a taxpayer and I’m concerned about the businesses and city employees who’s salaries come from their taxes.”

Officials said those who don’t comply with the mask mandate could receive fines and business owners who don’t hold their patrons accountable could also be penalized.

“I’m not against masks but I am against being forced to enforce masks,” said Haley Stiles.

The resolution is in effect until July 31 or until it is rescinded if the number of infections goes down, officials said.