Mississippi is first state to lift mask mandate as COVID cases fall

Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 4.

Mississippi became the first state in the union to lift a mask mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as cases fall.

Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 4. Gov. Tate Reeves Reeves, a Republican, has chosen to extend the mandate several times since then. However, on Wednesday, he said the declining number of confirmed virus cases and hospitalizations are positive developments that call for the lifting of some restrictions.

The new executive order ending the statewide mask mandate, effective Wednesday at 5 p.m. and expiring Nov. 11 — after the presidential election — also limits group gatherings where social distancing is not possible to 20 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. These restrictions do not apply to voting precincts, religious entities and schools, according to the order.

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, 823,185 COVID-19 tests have been performed statewide. Mississippi currently has 98,886 COVID-19 cases and 2,979 deaths.

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"I am not extending the statewide mask mandate, but I want to be clear, I still believe masks work," Reeves said. "I think the facts and the data across this country bear that out."

Reeves said there will still be restrictions on the number of people who are allowed in restaurants, bars and other businesses. College football games are already happening in Mississippi, and Reeves said people will still be asked to wear masks while attending games. The annual Mississippi State Fair starts next week in Jackson, and masks will be required at that event as well.

The governor said if cases of coronavirus start to rise again, he would consider putting a mask mandate back in place. Cities and towns are welcome to put in place their own mask mandates.

"There is a difference between being wise and being a government mandate," Reeves said. "We have to trust the people of this country to look after themselves and to make wise decisions.