GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It has become a daily mantra for Governor Tate Reeves— “Please wear your masks.”
Wednesday, after a third day of increased positive cases of COVID-19, Reeves tweeted his plea.
“I’m concerned that people are losing interest in the effort to keep each other safe,” he said. “We are all tired and ready to be done, but the virus doesn’t care. Please be on your guard—small efforts have a big impact!”
MEMA has provided almost 100,000 masks to Harrison County as part of the Community Mask Giveaway. Gulfport Fire Department gave out more than 14,000 on Tuesday.
It is one of the basic preventative measures health care officials have recommended since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Wear a mask when you’re in public or when you’re at work and you can’t properly social distance,” repeated Dr. Thomas Dobbs, head of the Mississippi State Department of Health during Monday’s press conference with the governor.
It is hard to estimate the percentage of people who are wearing masks when they go out in public, but saying half would probably be generous.
Some people like Sammy Hawthorne think they are essential.
“I think everyone should wear a mask. It’s protective, it’s a necessity to do so. I think they help out a whole lot in prevention of the coronavirus.”
WLOX News spoke to several shoppers outside Froogle’s grocery store on Wednesday after the state released the latest coronavirus numbers.
Among those not wearing a mask that would speak to us, the theme of government distrust came up.
“I’m not living in fear, basically. And I don’t believe it, I don’t believe all of it,” said Jim McGovern who was wearing a shirt with an image of an automatic weapon with the words “Come and take it.”
“If I go into a place that I need to go into and they make me wear a mask, I’ll wear one.”
Stephaine Johnston was unloading her groceries with her father-in-law, who was wearing a mask. She was not.
“It’s not the government’s job to keep me healthy, it’s mine,” she said.
“I’m not wearing a mask because they make you sick. That’s my opinion on it. I don’t think they are healthy. I was in nursing, my mom’s a nurse, I have a lot of family members that are in nursing. They’re not healthy, you’re breathing the same stuff.”
Johnston said she has been following CDC guidelines for hand washing and using hand sanitizer since before the pandemic.
“I forgot it, honestly,” said Jonathan Curry.
Another shopper asked not to be photographed without her mask because it would set a bad example for her children. She had a mask hanging from the windshield of her car but said she only wears it on the weekends when the store is more crowded.
One couple that was wearing masks found it a minor inconvenience, well worth it.
“We choose to err on the side of caution,” said Ted Kemp as he and his wife loaded their groceries into their car. “It might be better if everybody wore the mask, but if you don’t, we’ll have to wait and let history show us we were wrong.”
Kemp also looked at the economic side of the situation.
“If wearing a mask is all we have to do enhance our security in the future, that’s not a very strong requirement. and we certainly don’t need to get rampant in the spread of the disease again so that we end up having to shut everything down. Our country can’t stand another shutdown like that.”