Today, Gov. Tate Reeves announced two new executive orders to delay public school re-openings in target counties and establish a statewide mask mandate in the ongoing fight against this unprecedented pandemic.
“Here’s the bottom line: we have to balance the very real risk of the virus and the lifelong damage of school closures. To do that, we have to safely provide education for the greatest possible number of children,” said Reeves at today’s press briefing. “The best way to accomplish that is to provide guidelines, allow local school leaders to tailor them, and step in with the authority of state government where it is absolutely necessary. That is what we’re doing today. This is the beginning of that effort, not the end.”
Working closely with officials in the Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi State Department of Health, Reeves is directing school districts in counties with higher risk of community transmission and recent spikes in new cases to delay the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. Under Executive Order No. 1517, school districts in the following counties must delay their reopening for grades 7-12 until Monday, Aug. 17: Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower, and Washington Counties. The new executive order includes a statewide mask mandate for schools, instructing all Mississippians to wear a mask when inside a school building or classroom, or outside on a school campus when social distancing is not possible.
To combat rising cases and ramp up response efforts across the state, Reeves also issued a statewide mask mandate for all Mississippians to wear a mask when in public, with exceptions including for children under six years old, those who cannot cover their face for medical or behavioral conditions, and those at religious worship. Going into effect Wednesday morning, Mississippians must wear a mask when they’re inside a business, school, or any place open to the public, or when at an outdoor public space where social distancing is not possible.
Signed versions of all executive orders related to COVID-19 can be found on the governor’s website at governorreeves.ms.gov/covid-19.