Statewide mask mandate issued in Mississippi

Gov. Tate Reeves has issued a two-week statewide mask mandate.

“This is what I believe is the best plan for the initial reopening of our schools,” Reeves said. “With a two week push, I believe we can have the maximum effect and allow for an education for our kids.”

Reeves said he is issuing an executive order delaying the start of some seventh through 12th grade schools in Mississippi hot spots — including Hinds County. The other counties are Bolivar, Coahoma, Forest, George, Panola, Sunflower and Washington, Reeves said. The order only applies to public schools, the governor said.

“We must pump the brakes in hardest hit areas,” Reeves said.

State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said older children are more likely to spread the virus, while younger children will benefit more from in-person education.

School districts statewide will be required to follow guidelines put forth by the Mississippi State Department of Health, including social distancing and limits on class sizes.

“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,” Reeves said.

Reeves said virtual learning will be part of the equation for school districts across the state. The governor said he spent the past few days reviewing the reopening plans for Mississippi schools. He said 132 of 144 districts are providing meals in classrooms for students instead of gathering them together in a cafeteria.

Seventy-one of the state’s school districts are planning or a hybrid schedule that rotates between in-person and virtual education. Tap here to see the reopening plans compiled by the Mississippi Department of Education.

Classes are set to resume sometime this week for 51 school districts, 49 districts start next week, 14 start sometime the week of Aug. 17 and 23 start after that, Reeves said.

“Obviously there has been a lot of time, effort and I believe thought, put into these plans,” Reeves said. “Some of these, I would argue, are better plans than others.”

Students in kindergarten through 6th grade in Jackson, Clinton and Hinds County school districts will begin school the week of Aug. 10, while students in grades 7th through 12th will not resume classes — either virtual or in-person — until Aug. 17 under the governor’s executive order.

Reeves and Dobbs were asked how the orders will affect fall football.

“We haven’t made a decision on an executive order as it related to high school football. We’ve had extensive conversation with university leaders about what college football may look like,” Reeves said. “No one likes high school sports more than I do. I’m going to prioritize the education of our young people first and foremost. I believe there are many sports in high school that can be played a week from Friday night. I do not envision any scenario where there could be a large crowd in the stands to watch those football games.”

Mississippi reported the highest number of COVID-19 on ventilators on Tuesday, Dobbs said.

Earlier Tuesday, Dobbs issued an order requiring by law residents who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to isolate at home if they are not hospitalized.

Dobbs said the Mississippi State Department of Health does not recommend delaying the reopening of college campuses and universities in the state.

READ MORE:Statewide mask mandate issued in Mississippi

CHECK OUT WDSU:Get all the New Orleans news you need. With the latest New Orleans weather, sports and stories from around the state, WDSU is your news leader.