Adams County officials said they won’t mandate mask-wearing amid delta variant spread

Published 5:56 pm Monday, August 2, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Some Adams County officials said they will not make mask-wearing mandatory at county facilities although guidance from the state health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone should wear a mask when indoors in high COVID-19 transmission areas regardless of their vaccination status.

Adams County Supervisor Ricky Gray made a motion to make mask-wearing mandatory indoors at all county facilities. His motion died for lack of a second during a Monday meeting.

“We can’t make anyone get vaccinated but I believe when you enter a county-owned building you need to have a mask on,” Gray said. “We can’t put this on our employees and the people whether they wear a mask or not. We’ve had employees die who work for this county with the virus. We have so many employees with underlying health conditions and we need to keep them safe.”

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Supervisor Kevin Wilson, after hearing public comments asking why he was not wearing a mask, said, “I don’t want to wear a mask and I’m not wearing one.”

Wilson added he thinks everyone should get vaccinated and “most of my constituents agree with me” regarding masks.

“You have me on the record. I’m not wearing a mask but I do encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” Wilson said.

After Gray’s motion failed Board of Supervisors President Angela Hutchins said, “When you mandate someone to do something, they are going to do what they want anyway.”

Hutchins said she recalled trying to give someone a mask who was entering a grocery store without one when the COVID-19 infection rate was as bad as it is now without a vaccine being available.

Regardless, the person refused the mask, Hutchins recalled.

“I said it would help protect you and he said ‘I got to die some kind of way.’ Then I said well what about for the safety of others? He said ‘They have to die too.’ … This virus does not discriminate against age, race or gender. I’m not going to mandate that you wear a mask, but I ask that you please wear a mask when you are inside,” she said.

In other matters during Monday’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to revive the county’s COVID-19 emergency proclamation, which allows county officials to obtain masks and other personal protective equipment for distributing to the public and grants them emergency decision-making powers to pertinent to helping mitigate the spread of the virus.

According to data from the Mississippi State Department of Health, the total number of COVID-19 cases reported for Adams County on Monday was up by 44 cases from Friday with the new total standing at 3,453 cases. The number of deaths reported was unchanged with 88 total deaths. On Thursday, the state reported 15 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 at Merit Health Natchez with five COVID-19 patients in ICU and no available ICU beds.