TUPELO • Mayor Jason Shelton issued an executive order on Friday evening that mandates all people inside the Tupelo city limits wear a mask or a face covering when at an indoor public building or business institution.
The order will go into effect at 6 a.m. Monday, June 29. This means that Monday will be the first day that the city will be under an order requiring people to wear masks indoors.
“While wearing the face covering, it is essential to still maintain social distance being the best defense against the spread of COVID-19,” the order reads. “The intent of this executive order is to encourage voluntary compliance with the minimum requirements established herein by the businesses and persons within the jurisdiction of the City of Tupelo.”
The order does not mandate that people wear a mask or face covering while outdoors.
Businesses are asked to post signage at entrances informing patrons of the mask requirement, and business owners will have the ability to ask customers to leave if they do not comply with the mask orders.
People are not required to wear masks if they have religious exemptions, health conditions that prevents wearing a mask, work at a private office with fewer than 10 employees, are a child younger than 12, work at a small office that does not interact with the public, or work at a bank or gym or other business that contains a physical barrier between customers and employees.
If businesses have questions on whether they are exempt from the mask requirement, the order encourages them to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shelton told the Daily Journal in a phone interview that his order was modeled after Oxford’s mask requirements.
State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs on Thursday evening spoke to local ordinances being helpful in gaining support for masking during a Thursday afternoon press briefing.
“On a local level, you have to support the rules that are there and pass your own rules. We’ve had a lot of great communities that have local mask ordinances and have that support. I think that’s really important,” Dobbs said.
The Mississippi State Department of Health on Friday reported 550 new COVID-19 cases and six new deaths related to the virus. This brings the state’s total number of cases to 25,066 and the total number of deaths to 1,022.
Dobbs said there has been significant stress on the health system over the past couple of weeks.
“I’m absolutely terrified that we’re going to overwhelm the healthcare system, the hospitals and ICU – not in the fall which is something that had worried me previously,” Dobbs said. “But now I’m worried about next week or two weeks from now.”
Holly Springs Mayor Kelvin Buck released a statement announcing that he intends to sign an executive order requiring face masks to be worn in all public spaces throughout the city and all city employees will be required to wear a face mask at work.
“While we attempted to loosen this restriction to require masks based on the state not requiring face masks and instead encouraging masks, recent exposures and confirmed positive tests make it necessary to go back to required face masks,” the statement reads.
According to the Mississippi Constitution, municipalities do have the authority to issue orders of this magnitude during a state of emergency. Under the city’s form of government, Shelton is the head of the executive branch of government. The order will have the full effect of city law until the City Council convenes a meeting to either approve the order or override it with an existing city ordinance. The Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday, July 7.