Gov. Tate Reeves added seven more counties to the state’s mask mandate Monday, including Itawamba and Pontotoc counties. These counties join Benton, Marshall and Lee in our coverage area of Northeast Mississippi as we continue to watch as COVID-19 cases rise in the state.

As of Sunday, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health, 723 individuals are hospitalized across the state, with 180 in an ICU. Our peak number of hospitalizations occurred during the summer with 987. We currently have around 38 ICU beds available in our region, including 11 at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.

The most recent data on hospitalizations from North Mississippi Health Services, which includes NMMC, shows that the system is again nearing the number of peak hospitalizations, previously seen in late July.

After the spike in hospitalizations in July, which was seen across the state, we saw a significant decrease across the state. We believe this to be in part because of the statewide mask mandate Gov. Reeves issued. The governor even said himself in September that masking helped control the spread after the spike in July. And as he announced the seven additional counties added to the masking order on Monday, he again emphasized that wearing a mask helps.

When Gov. Reeves extended the statewide order in September, he said it was in anticipation of the Labor Day holiday and a possible spike, based on what we saw after other holidays. So with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, we must ask why can we not return to a statewide mask mandate?

We did not understand Gov. Reeves’ piecemeal approach during the summer and we do not understand it now. As Mississippians travel around the state, it’s difficult to keep up with the requirements for each county. And if a county is not under a mask mandate, it could give a false sense of security, during a time when we all must be diligent.

With the holidays upon us, changing weather, and a significant increase in cases, we implore Gov. Reeves to reinstate the statewide masking order before conditions worsen in our state.

In the meantime, please wear a mask, regardless of where you live and whether you’re under the current mandate.

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