Jason Shelton

JASON SHELTON

The COVID-19 pandemic is still a serious threat to our community, state and country. With the numbers continuing to rise and at the request of North Mississippi Medical Center and the Tupelo Economic Recovery Task Force, the City of Tupelo issued Executive Order 20-018, which requires the wearing of face masks in indoor public or business spaces where it is not possible to maintain social distance. The intent of this executive order is to encourage voluntary compliance to help stop the spread of the virus.

There has been a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of face masks, and much of what has been shared is simply inaccurate. I am not a healthcare professional, so I have depended on the medical experts for the best information to guide our city in making hard decisions for the health and safety of our citizens. The consensus of not only our local medical community but also the Mississippi Department of Health and the CDC is that face coverings limit the transmission of COVID-19.

To understand why face masks work, it is important to understand how the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads. As the Sars-CoV-2 virus responsible for the disease invades cells, it begins to multiply. As it multiplies, these new virus particles then burst out of the cells and become suspended in the bodily fluids in our lungs, mouth and nose. When an infected person coughs, they can send showers of tiny droplets – known as aerosols – filled with the virus into the air. Research shows that a single cough can produce up to 3,000 droplets. According to studies by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the virus can linger in the air for several hours and still infect people if breathed in. And in indoor environments, it seems to be particularly prone to spreading through the air. Another reason that face mask wearing is so important with COVID-19 has to do with the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers who can still spread the virus to others. Provided enough people wear masks when venturing out in public, it could have a dramatic impact on how quickly the COVID-19 virus spreads, particularly if combined with other measures such as social distancing and thorough handwashing.

I encourage everyone to read Executive Order 20-018 which can be found at www.tupeloms.gov as well as the City of Tupelo Mayor’s Facebook Page. We have received many questions which are addressed in the order. There are exceptions to the order which address circumstances in which a face covering is not required:

• People whose religious beliefs prevent them from wearing a face covering

• Medical or behavioral conditions

• Restaurant patrons while dining

• Private, individual offices with fewer than 10 employees

• Settings or services where a face covering is not practical such as dental services or swimming

• Banks, gyms, or spaces with physical barrier partitions which prohibit contact between customers and employees

• Small offices where the public does not interact with the employer

• Children under 12

Any business which seeks exemption for reasons not specified within the order’s exceptions is asked to send their safety plan to covid@tupeloms.gov for review.

The face mask order is meant to keep our community healthy and safe. I know that it is uncomfortable, hot, and difficult to communicate with others while wearing. Please remember that we are wearing face coverings to reduce the spread of the disease in our community. And frankly, it is about caring for others. Our cooperation in helping to stop the spread during this public healthcare crisis will lead to fully reopening our businesses and achieving normalcy in our daily lives. It’s the kindest thing you can do, and a small price to pay for keeping the people around us safe and well. Thank you for doing your part.

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo. Readers can contact him at jason.shelton@tupeloms.gov

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