JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - Gov. Tate Reeves issued two new executive orders Tuesday, and one has a great impact on one Pine Belt county.
Gov. Reeves issued Executive Order 1517, delaying the start of school in eight counties, including Forrest County.
“The counties that meet the criteria are Bolivar, Coahoma, Forrest, George, Hinds, Panola, Sunflower and Washington,” said Reeves.
But, it’s not for all students. The new order delays in-person learning for grades 7-12 in the Magnolia State.
State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs says that age group is as likely to transmit the coronavirus as young adults.
“It’s especially important that we consider delaying school for older kids,” said Dobbs. “The middle schoolers and the high schoolers- because we know they’re just as likely to transmit it as young adults also. We know how good they do it, right? But the younger kids are also more likely to benefit specifically from in-person learning.”
Along with the delayed start, the latest executive order requires masks in all public schools. It also extends to outdoors on campuses when social distancing is not possible.
Gov. Reeves says it’s all part of their efforts to balance the risk of the virus with the “lifelong damage of school closures.”
“Part of those guidelines offered by the State Department of Health is the requirement that all students and all staff wear masks while in school,” said Reeves. “When people participate in wearing masks, it helps. We are seeing improvements in our numbers- albeit much slower than any of us would like for it to be throughout our state. And, I am convinced it is because we are seeing more participation by individuals wearing masks.”
The governor also signed another executive order to help fight the pandemic. As of Wednesday, Mississippi is under a state-wide mask mandate for two weeks.
“Up to this point, we’ve kept the focus for masks on the counties with the highest spread,” said Gov. Reeves. “Now, with a two-week push, I believe we can have the maximum effect and allow for our education for our kids to occur.”
The governor added the order is only the beginning, not the end, to help keep kids and teachers safe. He also mentioned there is an exception to the face mask order for certain medical purposes.
As of now, schools affected by this order won’t allow grades 7-12 on campus until August 17.