JACKSON, Miss. (WMC) - Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves’ executive order lifting the statewide mask mandate went into effect Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Reeves had a mask mandate in place for several months for a number of counties and now he’s implemented an executive order lifting that mandate -- it’s at the discretion of business owners if they will enforce masks.
Elaine Fletcher, owner of Bon Von Gifts in Hernando has been in business for nine years, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been anything but business as usual.
”The community really stood behind us and tried to purchase from us and I’d either deliver or they’d come pick up on the curb,” she said.
Fletcher said she wears a mask most of the time but will leave it up to her customers to do what they feel most comfortable doing.
“If they don’t have a mask, I’m a little bit more cautious about distancing, if they have a mask, I let people get a little bit closer,” said Fletcher.
Big box retailers like Target and Kroger have said they will still require masks for their customers in the state of Mississippi.
Some Mississippi counties like DeSoto and LaFayette say they will follow Reeves’ executive order.
“The Board Determined it was time to allow our businesses and individuals to use their discretion in following safety measures,” said Oxford Mayor, Robyn Tannehill.
Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite released a statement that read in part:
“Eliminating government mandates does not mean that people should not continue with safety precautions. We can do both by returning 100% to our lives but still in a safe manner.”
Other cities like Tunica and Jackson will continue to implement the mask mandate. Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Steve Threlkeld said relaxing restrictions can be premature.
”I’m all for relaxing restrictions as quickly as we can I think doing it all at once when we still have as many people in our country that been vaccinated is something that we’ll have to be careful of,” said Threlkeld.
As of Wednesday morning, 666,502 total vaccine doses had been administered in the state, close to 237,000 of those being people who received both doses.
Over 25,000 doses have been administered in DeSoto County.
Concern over relaxing restrictions too quickly was a sentiment President Joe Biden echoed Wednesday.
“And the last thing, the last thing we need is to have neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything fine take off your mask...forget it. It still matters,” he said.
Reeves responded to Biden in a statement that reads in part:
“Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”