Many in Mississippi say wearing a mask is their choice, despite risk

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Mississippi health official: 'If I lived in DeSoto, I wouldn’t go out.'

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. — Mississippi continues to struggle with COVID-19 outbreaks, but the state government has resisted a statewide mask mandate, while encouraging residents to mask up.

While many follow the advice, many others don’t, and it continues to be the source of a contentious debate in the Magnolia State.

Entering Thanksgiving week, Mississippi has reported more than 140,000 COVID cases and close to 3,700 deaths. No county has been hit harder than DeSoto County.

“It’s on fire. I mean, it’s red-hot cases,” said state health official Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “If I lived in DeSoto, I wouldn’t go out. I’d stay in my house as much as possible.”

But resident Lamont Moncrief couldn’t disagree more. He says he’ll only wear a mask if it’s required, although he wears one at work.

He knows the risks of COVID-19, but doesn’t believe the mask does enough to minimize the risk — and he believes it’s his choice make.

“It’s everybody’s choice,” Moncrief said. “Ultimately whenever God decides he’s gonna take you home, he’s gonna take you. And it’s not gonna matter what you do to prevent it.”

 Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has taken what he calls a “targeted” approach, mandating restrictions in counties that hit certain COVID rates and thresholds. He’s made his stance clear.

“What’s in the best interest for you and your family and all Mississippians: If you go out in public, wear a mask. Please, wear a mask.”

But he’s stopped short of a statewide mask mandate.

“He’s letting it be in the people’s hands, instead of mandating or trying to force people,” Moncrief said.

Entering the holidays, 22 of Mississippi’s counties have had mask mandates reinstated, and more can be added to the list if problems continue. The state is also planning a COVID vaccine distribution plan.

Some residents may choose not to wear facial coverings, but everyone seems happy about a potential solution to the pandemic.

“I’m ready for everything to get back to normal,” Moncrief said. ‘Basically, 2020 has been one of the worst years that I can remember in my last 49.”

Gov. Reeves’ current health order is set to expire on Dec. 11.

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