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Governor lets statewide mask mandate expire

NATCHEZ — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday that he is allowing the state’s mask mandate to expire at 5 p.m. Wednesday but masks will still be required in schools and by certain professions, such as barbershops and salons.

“Today at 5 p.m. the current COVID-19 executive order and the mask mandate are set to expire,” Reeves said during a 2:30 p.m. Wednesday press conference on COVID-19 that was streamed on Facebook.

Reeves said he was issuing a new limited executive order that would still require masks to be worn in schools and by certain professions that could be super spreaders.

“A few of the relaxed restrictions include increasing attendance at outdoor K-12 extracurricular events such as football games to 50% of seating capacity, limiting group gatherings when you are unable to social distance to no more than 20 indoors and 100 outdoors, and requiring masks for schools and close contact businesses like salons and barbershops,” a press release from Reeves’ office states. “The order is in effect until Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m.”

Despite Reeves’ order, Adams County is still under a mask ordinance that supersedes the statewide order until Oct. 31.

Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford Sr. said the county could, however, decide to lift its mandate before it expires, if the Adams County Board of Supervisors choose to do so.

Reeves said he is still urging people to wear masks.

“I want to be clear; I still believe that masks work,” Reeves said. “I think the facts and the data in our state and across this country bear that out. I still plan to wear one and I expect that most people in our state will still wear them often. It is the smart, it is the prudent, it is the wise thing to do but there is a difference between something being wise and something being a government mandate. We have to reserve that for the most critical, most dangerous moment.”

Reeves said he made the decision based on COVID-19 numbers and data over the past few weeks in Mississippi.

“I think we can all agree that it has been a great few weeks for our COVID-19 numbers,” Reeves said. “Your work and your efforts have made a true difference. I have with me today the charts of hospitalizations; ICU capacities as well as a number of people on a ventilator and in many of those cases and in many of those instances each of those numbers are back in the range of where they were in March, April and May. That is a testament to what you the people of Mississippi have committed to and what you have been willing to do. We cut our average number of new COVID cases in half. We cut our hospitalizations by two-thirds of what they once were. We know that it was a very turbulent summer but we have come out on the other side of that very deadly wave.”

The text of Reeves’ latest executive order on COVID-19 can be found here.

Natchez Democrat reporter Sabrina Robertson contributed to this report.

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