Mississippi governor delays start to 7th-12th schools in COVID-19 hotspots; issues statewide mask mandate

Coronavirus

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Governor Tate Reeves announced two new executive orders to delay public school reopenings in target counties and establish a statewide mask mandate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Here’s the bottom line: we have to balance the very real risk of the virus and the lifelong damage of school closures. To do that, we have to safely provide education for the greatest possible number of children,” said Reeves. “The best way to accomplish that is to provide guidelines, allow local school leaders to tailor them, and step in with the authority of state government where it is absolutely necessary. That is what we’re doing today. This is the beginning of that effort, not the end.”

Reeves is directing school districts in counties with higher risk of community transmission and recent spikes in new cases to delay the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.

Under Executive Order No. 1517, school districts in the following counties must delay their reopening for grades 7-12 until Monday, August 17:

  • Bolivar
  • Coahoma
  • Forrest
  • George
  • Hinds
  • Panola
  • Sunflower
  • Washington

The new executive order includes a statewide mask mandate for schools, instructing all Mississippians to wear a mask when inside a school building or classroom, or outside on a school campus when social distancing is not possible.

Reeves also issued a statewide mask mandate for all Mississippians to wear a mask when in public, with exceptions including for children under 6 years old, those who cannot cover their face for medical or behavioral conditions, and those at religious worship.

Going into effect Wednesday morning, Mississippians must wear a mask when they’re inside a business, school, or any place open to the public, or when at an outdoor public space where social distancing is not possible. 

You can view the signed versions of the new executive orders here: Executive Order No. 1516Executive Order No. 1517. Signed versions of all executive orders related to COVID-19 can be found on our website at governorreeves.ms.gov/covid-19.

The Mississippi Association of Educators (MAE) released the following statement about Reeves’ executive order on delaying the start of some schools:

No one understands students needing to be back in the classroom more than educators do. We know it’s about much more than academic achievement. We miss our students dearly, and know how badly they need to be back in school buildings.

That’s why we’ve asked for a month long hiatus on in-person instruction so we can get a handle on the virus and back in the classroom as quickly as possible, with an assessment at the beginning of September to determine what should occur moving forward.

No one is proposing an indefinite hold on going back into buildings. We are simply requesting a few weeks to lower the number of new COVID cases and develop a plan that ensures every school in every district has the resources they need to get back into buildings safely.

That said: The governor’s plan, in its current form, is reckless and irresponsible. It ignores the advice of the state’s top medical officials and is putting students and educators and their families at risk.

Mississippi Association of Educators

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