JACKSON • Gov. Tate Reeves on Friday announced that he will issue a new executive order that will extend social gathering limitations, a statewide mask mandate and enact limits on how many spectators can attend extracurricular events at public schools. The order will go into effect at 8 a.m. on Monday and expire at 8 a.m. on Aug. 31.
The order mandates that only two people per student participant can attend a public school extracurricular event such as a sporting event or a band performance. The limit would not apply to coaches, directors, medical personnel or members of the media. The intent of the order is to allow athletic events and other activities to continue while reducing the number of spectators.
“One of my greatest concerns heading into this school season has been sports and those other events which cause the community to come out in crowds,” Reeves said. “Twenty-two players on a field is not going to overwhelm a local hospital. Two thousand people in a small school’s bleachers might.”
If the extracurricular is indoors, people will be required to wear face coverings at all times. If the event is outdoors, people will be required to wear face coverings only when in transit to two locations, such as walking from a ticket gate to a seat, even though the order recommends people wear masks at all times. Under both scenarios, people will be required to social distance from others unless next to someone within the same household.
If school districts wish to host extracurricular activities, the order requires them to designate a “Safety Officer” to specifically enforce social distancing requirements.
The order also extends the statewide masking mandate that requires people to wear masks or face coverings indoors and outdoors when unable to maintain proper social distancing. Social gathering restrictions will also be extended where no more than 20 people will be allowed to gather outdoors and no more than 10 people will be allowed to gather indoors.
Local and state law enforcement will have the authority to enforce the order. At a media briefing, Reeves did not say whether school districts could face fines if they did not comply with the order, but he did plead for leaders of the school districts and parents of students to enforce and comply with the order to slow the spread of the virus.
“The reality is that we are going to depend upon our school personnel to enforce these executive orders,” Reeves said.
The restrictions on extracurricular activities comes at a time when several school districts in Northeast Mississippi have resumed in-person classes and practices for sporting events. Some students and athletes at the schools have tested positive for the virus, which has resulted in large swaths of people being quarantined.
According to data from the Mississippi State Department of Health, around 944 additional people on Friday were reported to have tested positive for the virus, and 32 additional people have died from complications related to the virus.
Reeves said that students, parents and school officials could view extracurricular activities as an incentive to observe federal and state health guidelines to slow the spread and said if the number of new cases continues to decline, then more people could start attending events.
“If you really want to play sports, or the entirety of the fall if you want to get through the season, then work with us,” Reeves said.