TUPELO • Lee, Itawamba and Chickasaw counties are among those now targeted by Gov. Tate Reeves for tighter mitigation measures designed to once again slow the spread of COVID-19, including countywide mask mandates and tighter restrictions on crowds.
The mask mandate, issued by the governor Monday, requires a face covering inside public buildings where social distancing is not possible, though the mandate explicitly does not include voting precincts and houses of worship.
Under the restrictions on crowds, indoor social gatherings where social distancing is not possible will be limited to no more than 10 people. The mandate limits outdoor gatherings where social distancing is not possible to 50 people.
Other counties targeted for these same measures are Claiborne, DeSoto, Forrest, Jackson, Lamar and Neshoba.
These nine counties were selected based on the number of COVID-19 cases across the last two weeks.
“I don’t do any of this lightly and, honestly, no governor should,” Reeves said during a press conference Monday. “But we saw this strategy work in our summer wave.”
These measures come as infection numbers have risen again, though Reeves described this as a “very slow increase” rather than a “spike.”
The governor emphasized that his mitigation mandates are not designed to eliminate the spread of COVID-19 within the state. He doesn’t believe that’s possible. His goal is to spare the state’s hospital from a crushing load of hospitalizations linked to the pandemic.
“Our goal is to protect the integrity of the health care system,” Reeves said.
In the time since Reeves let his statewide mask mandate elapse at the end of September, Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton has continued to impose a citywide mask mandate. The Lee County Board of Supervisors has not imposed any kind of countywide mask order that would impact areas outside Tupelo city limits.
“They’ve been very, very aggressive with the mandates that they have in place,” Reeves said about Tupelo and Hattiesburg’s local orders, while noting the increasing transmission in those communities.
The governor made this point to bolster his claim that masking orders have their place but cannot on their own stop the ongoing transmission of the disease.
“None of these measures are silver bullets,” Reeves said.
The governor urged Mississippians to consider the risk posed by COVID-19 to older adults. According to Reeves based upon confirmed data, the survival rate in Mississippi for people under the age of 50 is over 99% and similar to survival rates for seasonal flu.
However, the governor said that for people over the age of 50, the survival rate is about 93% in Mississippi, meaning about 7% die.
“That’s about one in 13,” Reeves said. “That’s not really good odds that you want your mom or grandmom or your dad or grandad to take.”
The governor also said he does not believe that “herd immunity” is an effective strategy to pursue right now.