Reeves signs emergency order

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signs a State of Emergency declaration regarding the COVID-19 pandemic on March 17. 

Gov. Tate Reeves focused on DeSoto County’s high rate of COVID-19 spread during a live announcement today on Facebook.

As DeSoto County reports more new cases per day than ever, Reeves spoke about the importance of following guidelines outlined in his executive order like wearing masks in public and social distancing — measures which have been widely supported by health care professionals in the area.

During his live video, Reeves compared DeSoto County’s positive case numbers over a two-week period to those of other large counties in Mississippi. Hinds, Rankin and Madison Counties have a combined population of 493,000 people, while DeSoto County sits at about a third of that, with 184,000. Over the same two-week period, though, the three large counties had 970 cases total, and DeSoto County had 901 cases. 

“We want to strongly encourage our friends and neighbors in DeSoto County — if you go in public, wear a mask,” he said.

The announcement from Reeves comes one day after he renewed the mask mandate for DeSoto County, among 14 other counties.

It also comes one day after the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that it would not enforce Reeves’ mask mandate in the county nor force its deputies to wear masks while on duty.

“Sheriff Rasco doesn’t force his deputies to wear masks in settings where the host or property owner doesn’t require it,” the statement said. “However, he respects the wishes of our hosts and property owners when they request that masks be worn. We have not issued any citations. We will not issue citations for not wearing masks nor will we enforce Governor Tate Reeves mandate on social distancing.”

In photos posted by the department, deputies have attended and led events across the county, including in schools, without wearing masks.

Other law enforcement agencies in the county have shown little interest in enforcing the law, though it has been widely praised by health care professionals.

This comes at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the county is higher than ever before — having 200% of the cases per capita needed to be considered a “critical” community by experts.

Reeves extended the mask mandate on Wednesday morning for 15 counties, including DeSoto County. On Tuesday, he canceled a press conference and later announced on Twitter that one of his daughters tested positive for COVID-19.

Reeves, his wife and his other daughters have since tested negative for the virus, he said in a tweet.

The counties currently under the mask mandate are Benton, Carroll, Covington, DeSoto, Forrest, Harrison, Humphreys, Jackson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Leflore, Lee, Marshall, Rankin and Yalobusha.

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