TUPELO • The City Council has unanimously voted to uphold Mayor Jason Shelton’s local masking order following a decision by Gov. Tate Reeves to let a statewide masking mandate lapse.
Shelton already imposed his executive order beginning last week, under statutory provisions granting mayors emergency powers to protect public safety. However, the City Council has the authority to uphold or reverse the order. Tuesday’s vote upheld it.
“The mask protection, the social distancing, hand washing, that’s really the only defense we have as ordinary citizens against the spread of COVID-19,” Shelton said while addressing the council Tuesday night.
He noted that Dr. Jeremy Blanchard, the chief medical officer of North Mississippi Health Services, had voiced support for an ongoing face covering requirement in Tupelo.
The order is currently dated to end Nov. 11, but Shelton previously told the Daily Journal he intends to maintain the masking order as long as medical experts say it’s needed.
Tupelo’s mask order requires that anyone within the city limits wear a face covering while present inside public or business spaces. There are exceptions in the order for those with religious objections to face coverings, health conditions that make face coverings unsafe and restaurant patrons who are eating.
Some other exceptions are detailed in the order based on the nature of particular businesses. Children under 12 are also exempted from the order.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, public health and medical experts were initially slow to recommend the widespread adoption of face coverings, but the measure has increasingly come to be widely seen as a key step to stem the spread of COVID-19 in public settings.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of a mask when in contact with non-family members where social distancing of 6 feet cannot reliably be maintained.
The CDC says that an effective mask should cover both the mouth and the nose and fit tightly around the face. Cloth masks should be washed regularly.
Addressing the City Council on Monday during a briefing session, Shelton pointed to an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak among upper echelons of the U.S. government as an example of how the disease can establish a foothold within environments where masking and other safety measures are not rigorously followed.
“You see what’s happening in the White House, how quickly this can spread,” Shelton said.
Tupelo city government recently suffered its own outbreak among key officials, with Shelton’s Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis, Tupelo Water & Light Director Johnny Timmons and Parks and Recreation Director Alex Farned all falling ill with the disease in late August.
The impacted individuals attributed their infections to social contact between each other outside of the work environment.
Prior to the August outbreak, a 47-year-old city employee, Terri Blissard, died of COVID-19.