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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a two-week statewide mask mandate in public, and will delay school start dates for grades 7-12 in some COVID hotspots, including two Mid-South counties.

“After reviewing every school’s reopening plans, I am issuing an executive order delaying the start of some 7th-12th schools in hot spots,” Gov. Reeves posted on social media. “We are requiring masks in schools for teachers and students. We are also requiring masks at public gatherings statewide for two weeks—in a push to allow schools to safely reopen.”

The counties where school will be delayed are Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hines, Panola, Sunflower and Washington.

Reeves said he personally dislikes wearing a mask, but said it was essential in order to get children back in schools.

“If we do the little things, it will make a difference,” Reeves said. “We cannot be too proud to change course. We know that with this virus, times change every single day.”

Thirty-seven counties in Mississippi have a mask mandate, and they are seeing cases slow down, Reeves said.

The Mississippi Association of Educators blasted the governor’s plan in a statement on the group’s Facebook page.

“The governor’s plan, in its current form, is reckless and irresponsible. It ignores the advice of the state’s top medical officials and is putting students and educators and their families at risk,” the group said.

The group has instead asked for a monthlong hiatus on in-person instruction to get a handle on the virus and back in the classroom as quickly as possible, with an assessment at the beginning of September to determine what should occur moving forward.

Mississippi reported 1,074 new cases of COVID on Tuesday, for a total of 62,199, with 1,753 deaths.

The state health officer issued a mandatory stay-at-home order for 14 days for anyone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Dr. Thomas Dobbs asked Mississippians to “just chill out for two or three weeks, consistent with the mask mandate.”

Dobbs and Reeves both said many COVID cases are being traced to family dinners, backyard barbecues, weddings and funerals. They urged Mississippians to stay away from these events for a few weeks, so schools can safely reopen.

The positivity rate in Mississippi is now 21 percent. The Surgeon General recommended that schools not reopen unless the positivity rate in a community is below 10 percent.