JACKSON • As hospitalization numbers for COVID-19 continue to rise across the state, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves on Wednesday announced that it is a “possibility” that bars, in some capacity, could close down to slow the spread of the virus.

Reeves said that he and staff members are still deliberating the specifics of the order, including whether the order restricting bars should apply statewide or only in counties where transmission of the virus is most prevalent.

“It is not in my DNA to shut down private business, so this is something we’re having conversations about,” Reeves said.

The announcement of the possible shutdown comes at a time when Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited with Reeves and other state officials on Wednesday as part of her visits to Southern states.

Multiple times during the course of his Wednesday press conference, Reeves said that Birx spoke highly of his existing order requiring residents in 13 counties to wear a mask or face covering when at public gatherings or inside of certain public places. Despite this, Reeves rejected the idea that the entire state should be under a mask order.

“You know, it’d be a heck of a lot easier for me to just sign the order so y’all can quit asking that question, and I wouldn’t have to deal with it everyday,” Reeves said. “But I’m here to tell you I think fewer people would wear masks in the counties where it’s most important if that’s what I did. Otherwise, I’d do it. But I don’t believe that’s the best strategy.”

On Wednesday morning, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an executive order mandating that all citizens wear a mask when within six feet of another person from a different household. Reeves has implored Mississippians to wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus, but said that he believes the best action for his office to take at this time is to issue an order only for counties that have a high rate of transmission.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer, at the press conference said that he believed there was some validity to Reeves’ argument that a targeted mask order for individual counties does help slow the spread of the virus because the citizens in the targeted counties have extra pressure placed on them to follow the order. Dobbs also said he believed more counties will be added to the list of “hotspot” counties soon.

“When they get added, I don’t think it’s going to be a (one) week sort of thing,” Dobbs said. “I think it’s going to be multiple weeks because you don’t see your impact for multiple weeks. That’s going to be ongoing, and we’ll continue to watch it closely.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health on Wednesday reported that 1,025 new people have tested positive for the virus and that 18 new people have died from complications related to the virus.

North Mississippi Health Services also reported they have 66 hospitalized patients on Wednesday, which is an increase of eight patients since Tuesday.

taylor.vance@journalinc.com

Twitter: @taylor_vance28

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