Mississippi governor won’t issue statewide mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge

US & World News

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi’s governor held a news conference on Friday, one day after he announced the extension of Mississippi’s State of Emergency for 30 days.

During the news conference, Gov. Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) announced he has no intention of issuing a statewide mask mandate at this time. He also said he will not require state employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but he encouraged Mississippians to get the vaccine.

“Either the vaccine works or it doesn’t. I believe it does, and it works in two ways. Makes you significantly less likely to get the virus, and the second phase, makes it even less likely that you are going to end up hospitalized or in an ICU bed,” he said.

Reeves encouraged those who are unvaccinated to wear face masks when they’re in public places as the Delta variant continues to spread in the state.

On Friday, Mississippi reported its largest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases. The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported 5,023 new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Mississippi, along with 31 additional deaths.

When it comes to schools, the governor said he trusts school board leaders to make their own decisions to ensure students are safe. Several in Central Mississippi and the Pine Belt have issued temporary mask mandates, while others have moved to virtual learning on a temporary basis.

The state requested 65 physicians, 920 nurses, 41 certified registered nurse anesthetists, 59 advance-practice nurses, 34 physician assistants, 239 respiratory technicians, and 20 emergency medical technician paramedics.

Reeves said if this staffing level can be attained, it would open up 771 hospital beds and 235 intensive care unit beds not currently staffed in the state. He said workers could be in Mississippi within a week.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency received responses Friday from 19 contractors to provide the medical workers, and the federal government will pay the cost, director Stephen McCraney said.

Reeves said Mississippi requested 150 ventilators from the national stockpile. He also said the federal government rejected Mississippi’s request for a medical ship from the military. Reeves said the main reason for requesting the ship was to get additional medical workers into the state.

One of the requests that were approved was an increase in ICU bed capacity at both VA hospitals in Jackson and Biloxi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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