USA

Mississippi becomes first state to lift statewide mask mandate

Mississippi has become the first state to lift a mask mandate.

Gov. Tate Reeves announced the reversal at a news conference Wednesday, where he detailed a new executive order that also eased some social distancing restrictions on public gatherings. Masks are still required to be worn in schools and “close contact” businesses like salons and barbershops.

“For the heavy hand of government to tell you that you must do something, then the underlying conditions should justify it. When we were at our peak and we were making those decisions, the numbers absolutely justified it,” Reeves said. “But because of the work and the effort of the people of Mississippi, we’re in a different spot now.”

He said improving coronavirus figures in the state warranted lifting the mandate in place since Aug. 5.

After the number of daily cases statewide peaked at roughly 1,775 on July 30, that figure has somewhat steadily dropped to the 550 daily cases that were announced the morning of Reeves’ policy change.

Several governors never instituted facemask requirements in their states — Indiana, Wyoming and Iowa, among others — though some cities within those states issued their own orders.

Reeves said he would be leaving it up to residents to decide whether to wear a mask.

“We are moving to an executive order wherein I trust the people of Mississippi to do the right thing. If you want to call that the ‘honor system,’ that’s fine with me,” Reeves said.

But his own health experts weren’t sure the measure was wise, WLOX reported.

“Legitimately, I don’t know. I’m going to wear a mask,” state health official Dr. Thomas Dobbs told the outlet.

“I’m going to eat outside,” Dobbs added. “I’m not going to have any small gatherings. I’m not going to go to weddings of my family and it breaks my heart. I think these are decisions that we all kind of have to come to.”

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