Mask requirements, additional guidelines to take effect in 13 hotspot counties
Image courtesy of the office of Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves

Thursday, Governor Tate Reeves announced the 13 hotspot counties that would be placed under additional social distancing guidelines in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19. Today, the governor has officially issued the executive order that will put these measures in place beginning Monday, July 13.

The following counties are included in the order: Claiborne, Desoto, Grenada, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, Jefferson, Madison, Quitman, Rankin, Sunflower, Washington, and Wayne Counties.

Once in effect, the order will require residents in these counties to wear a mask while at public gatherings or when “in a shopping environment” and you must limit social gatherings to no more than 10 indoors and 20 outdoors.

“Mississippi is in a fight for our lives. COVID-19 is an ever-present threat, and we are in the middle of a spike. It is putting a strain on our hospital system,” Governor Reeves said. “Today, I am announcing a new order which places tighter restrictions on thirteen counties that are seeing greater risk than others. Make no mistake. The risk is present everywhere. It is most visible in these counties.”

The guidelines mandated by this order mirror those set for hotspot counties back in May. While no businesses will be forced to close as a result of the order, additional guidelines will be implemented.

For all businesses:

  • All businesses are expected to take every step necessary to implement the regulations, orders, and guidance from the Mississippi State Department of Health and CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and encouraging sick employees to stay home.
  • All employees will be screened daily at the beginning of their shifts, including asking whether they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and have they had a fever in the last 48 hours.
  • Based on their duties and responsibilities, employees who are unable to maintain at least 6 feet distance from others must wear a face covering throughout their shift, such as a face mask. Their face coverings must be cleaned or replaced daily.
  • Hand sanitizer must be provided to all employees, which can include a hand rub or soap.

For retail businesses (in addition to measures above):

  • Face coverings must be provided to all employees who come in direct contact with customers. Employees are required to wear that face covering throughout their shift and clean or replace daily.
  • All customers must wear a face covering while inside the retail business.
  • Hand sanitizer must be placed at all entrances, in or near bathrooms, and at cashier stations.
  • Retail businesses are expected to make all efforts to maintain a 6-foot distance between customers at all times.
  • Carts, baskets, and other similar surfaces touched by customers must be sanitized after each use. Other high-touch areas must be sanitized at least once every two hours.

For people out in public:

  • Everyone must wear face coverings when at public gatherings or in a shopping environment.
  • People must maintain a 6-foot distance between themselves and others.
  • Further limits on social gatherings: down to no more than 10 indoors and 20 outdoors.

These measures will be in addition to the current statewide ‘Safe Return’ order, which remains in effect until July 20th, which is when the new order is currently set to expire as well.

This week, the state’s top health officials have expressed concern for the state’s healthcare system as hospitalizations increase and ICU bed space has become scarce.

In an effort to free up hospital capacity, elective procedures have been restricted across the state.