DeSoto County residents say mask mandate OK; governor lays out guidelines

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DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. — Soon, residents in DeSoto and Quitman counties will be required to wear a mask while out in public, after Gov. Tate Reeves gave the orders following a significant increase in COVID-19 cases.

Residents say they’re all for the mandate, but they have concerns. Some think the orders should extend statewide.

The Mississippi Department of Health reported a total of 1,031 new cases Friday – the second-highest daily increase since last month.

In response, Reeves ordered 13 counties, including DeSoto and Quitman, to tighten restrictions.

James Hendricks of DeSoto County says he’s all for the changes.

“Some people feel like it’s a constitutional right not to have to wear a mask because they have their freedoms and certain things, but at the same time you have to agree with public safety,” he said.

As of Friday, DeSoto County had more than 1,800 COVID cases and 19 deaths. Quitman County has just under 100 cases with only one death.

Under the mandate, people will be required to mask when in public, no more than 10 people can gather indoors and no more than 20 can gather outdoors.

Reeves says the 13 counties have a greater coronavirus risk, but some people believe it should be a statewide mandate and not limited to a few counties.

“Just because it’s rising in these counties doesn’t mean it’s not necessarily going to be rising in the others, as well. If you don’t follow these guidelines, it can hit everywhere,” said Carola Craig of DeSoto County.

According to the governor, the requirements do not include churches, casinos, restaurants, and bars. The restrictions are expected to go in effect Monday.

Officials in DeSoto and Quitman counties both said Friday that they are looking for the official executive order to come down from the governor’s office for guidance on enforcement.

Friday afternoon, Reeves’ office laid out some further information on his order:

For all businesses:

  • All businesses are expected to take every step necessary to implement the regulations, orders, and guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • All employees will be screened daily at the beginning of their shifts, including asking whether they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and have they had a fever in the last 48 hours.
  • Based on their duties and responsibilities, employees who are unable to maintain at least 6 feet distance from others must wear a face covering throughout their shift, such as a face mask. Their face coverings must be cleaned or replaced daily.
  • Hand sanitizer must be provided to all employees, which can include a hand rub or soap.

For retail businesses (in addition to measures above):

  • Face coverings must be provided to all employees who come in direct contact with customers. Employees are required to wear that face covering throughout their shift and clean or replace daily.
  • All customers must wear a face covering while inside the retail business.
  • Hand sanitizer must be placed at all entrances, in or near bathrooms, and at cashier stations.
  • Retail businesses are expected to make all efforts to maintain a 6-foot distance between customers at all times.
  • Carts, baskets, and other similar surfaces touched by customers must be sanitized after each use. Other high-touch areas must be sanitized at least once every two hours.

For people out in public:

  • Everyone must wear face coverings when at public gatherings or in a shopping environment.
  • People must maintain a 6-foot distance between themselves and others.
  • Further limits on social gatherings: down to no more than 10 indoors and 20 outdoors.

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