Masking required for schools, beauty salons, barber shops; lifted elsewhere

The latest order from Gov. Tate Reeves lifts the masking requirement for most situations, however, masks are still required on school campuses and inside close-contact businesses such as beauty salons and barber shops.
Reeves lifted the order as new virus cases in the state have fallen in the last two months.
And although the mask requirement is lifted for most places, the order strongly encourages citizens to keep wearing masks in public, whether required or not.
Gov. Reeves said he will continue to wear face masks in public to curb the virus infection rate, saying it is, “smart…prudent…and the wise thing to do.”
The state experienced a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths from the disease in July. About 20% of COVID-19 test results in July came back positive causing Reeves to issue the statewide mandate to wear masks. About the time the mandate took effect, case numbers began to decrease.
Even though numbers have improved, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says he is still worried as several counties have shown increased numbers of positive tests for the disease in recent days.
Dobbs says the state is still vulnerable for another surge in cases, noting 5% increases in Jones, Lamar and Lee counties.
Meantime, the governor said numbers of new case reports have decreased by 50% since earlier this summer with hospitalizations down by 66%. Although lifting masking requirements, the governor said the improvement in numbers is a result of Mississippians wearing masks, following social distancing requirements, avoiding large gatherings and taking other steps to slow the spread of the virus.
Still, health officials are worried about another spike in coronavirus cases during the fall, and the effect it will have on hospitals faced with handling increased patient loads due to the regular flu season.
Reeves says he thinks hospitals may not see the usual increase from the regular flu season as people are taking extra precautions due to the coronavirus, limiting contact due to social distancing.
Early in the summer, Reeves resisted calling for a statewide masking mandate, calling for voluntary masking and issuing county-by-county mask mandates instead. Eventually the governor bowed to pressure from state health leaders, issuing the statewide masking order.
A majority of states nationwide still have masking orders in place.
The state’s health officer said the masking order was successful in curbing the spread of the virus, noting that recent statistics showed death counts down to near baseline average figures prior to the pandemic hitting the state.
Dobbs said he still favors masking.
“Everyone needs to wear a mask, there’s just no doubt about it,” he said. As to the governor’s lifting the mandate, Dobbs said, “It depends on what we do.”
If people continue wearing masks voluntarily without the requirement, Dobbs said the governor will have made the right call. He said he understands concerns people have about balancing public health and personal liberty
Dobbs said he encouraged the governor to maintain the mask mandate in schools, and Reeves went along, still requiring masking on school campuses.
Statewide schools have mostly stayed open. About 1800 students and 900 teachers and staff have tested positive since the beginning of the school year. The last week of September about 4600 students were quarantined throughout the state.
The governor has endured criticism for his handling of the pandemic since it began. He was criticized for both delaying a statewide mask mandate and then for ordering a statewide mandate calling for people to wear masks.

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