TUPELO • Mississippi will lift all county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules starting Wednesday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
“Our hospitalizations have plummeted, and our case numbers have fallen dramatically as well,” Reeves said. “In fact, our case numbers have fallen to the point where no county meets the original criteria for a mask mandate.”
Reeves advised Mississippians to continue listening to State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs and other health advisors for “the best possible wisdom regarding how you can personally stem any risk of catching COVID.”
Remaining Mississippi COVID restrictions
The only restrictions that will remain in Executive Order 1549 are a capacity limit of 50% on indoor arenas and those that govern K-12 schools.
K-12 schools will still require students and educators to wear masks where social distancing isn’t possible. Seating for K-12 extracurricular activities at outdoor venues is now set at 50% capacity, with a 25% maximum seating capacity inside.
Reeves said the K-12 requirements will remain “because I believe that the most consequential debate playing out in America today is whether children should be in the classroom learning.”
The governor criticized states whose schools have not returned to traditional, in-person instruction and said he doesn’t want any Mississippi school to have an excuse “to act like those other states.”
Under the revised order, seating capacity for indoor bowl and arena seating at colleges, universities and other venues will be increased to 50%. There is no limit on outdoor seating.
“Mississippians are encouraged, though not ordered, to wear a face covering and practice social distancing,” Reeves said.
Reeves said he expects Order 1549 to be one of his last executive orders related to COVID-19. It will take effect at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 3.
The order does not forbid local municipalities from issuing or maintaining their own masking orders or social gathering restrictions, according to Reeves.
‘We’re not out of the woods’
The announcement comes just nine days before the one-year anniversary of Mississippi’s first confirmed COVID-19 case and 12 days shy of the one-year anniversary of Reeves declaring a state of emergency due to the virus.
“In my view, this is the way forward,” Reeves said of easing restrictions. “As more and more people are vaccinated, there will be more and more immunity throughout our state. This is a far better way to flatten the curve and prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed.”
The Mississippi State Department of Health reported 301 new COVID-19 cases and 44 additional deaths related to the virus on Tuesday, “a stark reminder that we’re still seeing significant coronavirus transmission and deaths, so we’re not out of the woods,” State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.
He urged Mississippians to hold off on attending mass sporting events, church gatherings, funerals and weddings until they have been vaccinated.
“There’s no way in heck I would go sit in a crowded bar right now, indoors or out,” Dobbs said when asked about spring break coming later this month.
Dobbs said there are certain outdoor activities that could be fairly safe, but warned “we can mess this up.”