Mississippi will remain under a statewide mask mandate through the end of September.
Gov. Tate Reeves issued a new executive order Sunday that extends the mandate while easing some other coronavirus-related limitations on businesses, and a spokesperson for Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker said Monday the mayor would issue an order “to reflect the same.”
The governor’s mask mandate, which was imposed in early August, was scheduled to expire Monday. Thirty-four states have active mask mandates, and that list includes the neighboring states of Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.
The new order allows restaurants to serve more dine-in customers with the capacity upped to 75 percent of normal maximum capacity from the previous 50 percent. Restaurants may also seat up to 10 people at one table instead of the previous limit of six, but tables must remain at least 6 feet apart.
Retail stores and gyms may operate at 75 percent capacity, and gyms are now allowed to remain open for 24 hours a day.
Reeves said Monday the state is “no longer in the red zone,” but he urged residents to remain cautious.
“Now is not the time to let your guard down,” the first-term governor said. “We want people to continue to wear your mask. We want people to continue to social distance.”
He added that the state is, “for the first time in many, many, many months,” seeing a seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases below 3,000.
“That is because of the efforts of the people of this state,” Reeves said.
As of Monday, the state Health Department has recorded at least 90,018 reported cases of the highly contagious virus in Mississippi, which has a population of about 3 million. There have been 2,706 deaths as of Sunday evening.
In Forrest County, which has a population of nearly 75,000, there have been 2,281 cases with 68 deaths. Those numbers include 170 cases and 40 deaths in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
Lamar County, with a population of nearly 63,500, has reported 1,536 cases with 33 deaths, including 25 cases and 11 deaths in long-term care facilities.
The true number of virus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most but can be more severe or fatal for some, especially older adults and those with underlying health conditions.