Mississippi municipalities struggle to enforce governor’s mask mandate

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DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. — Gov. Tate Reeves’ face mask mandate went into effect Monday in 13 Mississippi counties.

Those counties, which include DeSoto and Quitman in the Mid-South, continue to show alarming increases in COVID-19 cases.

But as the governor’s executive order takes effect, municipalities have no clear guidelines about how to enforce it.

Most people WREG talked with Monday agreed more people should wear face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and don’t necessarily believe the government is overstepping its bounds

“People are getting sick, so we just kind of be proactive,” Hernando resident Mary Berry said. “If people would just wear masks, then the government would not have to step in.”

But DeSoto County’s chief law enforcement officer said his deputies are too busy fighting crime to enforce the governor’s mask mandate.

“Those people who feel like they may be subject to catching the virus and want to wear masks, that’s fine with me, but we are not going to be out harassing people and asking them to put on a mask,” DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco said.

The chief of the Olive Branch Police Department said the governor’s order will be very hard to enforce.

“The governor has issued an executive order, and we’re required to abide by his orders,” Olive Branch Police Chief Don Gammage said. “At the same time, I’ve instructed my officers, we’re not out there to issue citations at this point. We will go out and hopefully try to get people to do it by verbally asking them to comply.”

The challenge is the same in Quitman County, where officials are working on plans to more effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19.

There is a real concern among residents to get the virus under control.

“Oh yea, it make me scared,” one resident said. “I’m scared as hell. I really don’t even want to come out.”

A mandate on wearing face masks may be the best way to accomplish that.

“I think it’s a good thing because we all need to be protected, protect each other, so I think it’s a really good thing that everybody is wearing the mask now,” Marks resident Vivian McNeese said.

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