Are masks and other COVID restrictions going away?
With a new executive order going into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, many people are wondering if the wearing of face masks and other COVID-19 restrictions are going away in Mississippi.
The answer is both “yes” and “no.” While some stricter measures previously imposed on the majority of the state’s counties will no longer be in effect, most measures will remain. Though Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday, “The governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do,” the new executive order (1549) goes into effect at 5 p.m. and extends until March 31 at 5 p.m. and keeps limits on businesses, non-profits, schools and public gatherings.
The governor also encouraged all people within the state to follow guidelines from the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Individuals are encouraged to wear face coverings — over both the nose and the mouth — while in public spaces whenever it is not possible to maintain social distancing from people who do not live within the same household.
- People are asked to avoid large gatherings, particularly those indoors.
- Social distancing is encouraged.
- Good hand hygiene — washing often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — is recommended, as well as staying at home when COVID-19 symptoms appear of when feeling sick.
For businesses and non-profits
The executive order encourages all businesses and non-profits to make “reasonable, good-faith efforts” to comply with CDC and MSDH regulations and guidelines.
- Employees should wear face coverings over the nose and mouth, wash hands regularly and wear gloves if appropriate.
- Customers should wear face coverings over the nose and mouth except when receiving a service that cannot be provided while wearing a mask.
- Customers should be screened for illness prior to entry.
- The number of customers inside the facility should be limited.
Schools and events
State health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said Tuesday it’s still a good idea for people to avoid large, unmasked gatherings.
Face coverings are still required inside school classrooms or buildings, as well as outdoors on campus when social distancing cannot be observed.
Events at indoor arenas/bowls are limited to 50% capacity, as well as outdoor school athletic events or activities; 75% capacity is recommended for club areas or suites. Face coverings are encouraged and all entry and exit gates and restrooms should be open. Indoor school venues will be limited to 25% seating capacity.
Reeves said there are no limits for seating for outdoor college events, including baseball stadiums.
Exceptions for face coverings include medical or behavioral conditions, eating or drinking, communication with someone who needs the mouth to be visible, appropriate security screening/surveillance, swimming or other exercise/training, persons giving a presentation or teaching, persons providing religious training, children under age 6 and any other setting where wearing a mask is not practical or feasible.
All state courts are opened, unless or until the Supreme Court of the State of Mississippi issues other orders.
What about Brookhaven?
Executive Order 1549 states: “Nothing in this Executive Order shall limit or alter the authority of any local or county authority from adopting orders, rules, regulations, resolutions and actions that are MORE STRICT than established herein … provided that they do not impose restrictions that prevent any Essential Business Operations … from operating at such level necessary to provide essential services and functions …” (emphasis added).
The Brookhaven Board of Aldermen discussed the governor’s new order behind closed doors Tuesday night during its regular meeting, under the Open Meetings Act 25-41-7 (4) (f) “cases of extraordinary emergency.” After the brief executive session, Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron made a motion to adopt Executive Order 1549 for Brookhaven, essentially a formal statement of agreement with the intents and orders of the governor. The motion died for lack of a second; therefore no vote was taken.
City attorney Joe Fernald said the city nonetheless cannot lift orders imposed by the state’s governor — only make them more stringent. The lack of a vote by the board does not do away with the executive order’s requirements, but fails to voice official support for the new order.
Both Mayor Joe Cox and Lincoln County Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey strongly urged citizens to continue to wear masks, wash their hands regularly and social distance when possible.
“I personally don’t think we have enough herd immunity from either having the virus or the vaccine in Lincoln County at this time for us to be OK doing away with all precautions,” Galey said.
“Please continue to wear your mask and social distance,” Cox said. “It’s just smart.”