HERNANDO, Miss. (WMC) - Monday Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves added 7 counties to his executive order mandating mask-wearing and social distancing, given increases in COVID-19 cases.
That brings the total number of counties under the order statewide to 22, which now includes Pontotoc, Tate, Itawamba, as well as Marshall and DeSoto, which were already on the list.
“If you go out in public, wear a mask. Please wear a mask,” said Reeves in a Monday afternoon Facebook live.
Reeves said the spread of the virus statewide is getting worse, with caseloads back to their summer peak. Reeves pleaded with Mississippians to heed the advice of the state’s public health experts.
“Wearing a mask helps. It helps you. It helps your family. It helps your friends, and I know it isn’t fun,” he said. “It’s something that none of us enjoy doing. But it does make a difference. It does have an impact.”
Reeves also said he’d been on a conference call with VP Mike Pence and other medical experts on the coronavirus task force, including the CDC and FDA.
Last week Reeves said he was concerned about increases in Desoto County which reported roughly 1,000 cases in a two-week period. The state’s health officer called the area “red hot.”
“DeSoto is on fire. It’s red-hot cases. And if I lived in DeSoto, I wouldn’t go out. I’d stay in my house as much as possible,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi health officer.
Southaven’s Mayor, Darren Musselwhite, posted over the weekend on Facebook that he disagreed with the assessments of Reeves and Dobbs about the situation locally.
Monday the DeSoto County’s EMS director told the board of supervisors hospitals in the area were maintaining amid the increase in cases. But he cautioned while the end of the pandemic is in sight there’s still a long way to go.
“Even with the vaccines that are coming, we are still looking at several months of this. And we’ve been saying since the summer this was going to increase this time of year,” said Mark Davis, DeSoto County EMS Director.
The Desoto County Sheriff’s Department made headlines days ago when leaders there said they wouldn’t enforce the governor’s mask and social distancing directives, though the mandates state it is up to local law enforcement and the Mississippi Department of Health to do that.
MSDH has asked for the cooperation of law enforcement in echoing the importance of masking.
Department officials said Monday that DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco is not against masking.
“The sheriff is not against masks at all. What he’s for is personal freedoms for people to be able to make their own decisions and what’s going to be best for their health. And he’s not somebody that’s going to go around and beat people over the head for not wearing a mask or standing less than six feet apart,” said Justin Smith, Chief Deputy, DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department.
Davis said a mask distribution is being planned for the weekend. Logistics remain in the works, but they are hoping to give away 100,000 masks in a drive-thru set up at area schools.
“I think everyone needs to do what’s best for them and their families. Like we’ve said since the beginning, if you can’t social distance, we encourage you to wear a mask,” he said.