Forrest County is among the Mississippi counties under a mandatory mask order issued Sunday by Gov. Tate Reeves.
Executive Order 1509 requires the public to wear appropriate face coverings – ones that cover the nose and mouth – while shopping and also while at public gatherings.
The order was effective at 8 a.m. Monday and expires at 8 a.m. on Aug. 3.
The order mandates that businesses must screen employees for symptoms of COVID-19, and employees must wear face coverings when interacting with the public. Businesses must provide hand sanitizer to all employees and customers, and sanitizing stations must be available at points of entry and exit, in or near bathrooms and at cashier stations.
Customers are required to wear face coverings, but they may be exempt from the requirement if they have certain medical or behavioral conditions. Customers do not have to wear coverings while eating or drinking.
The order also specifies the following:
• Coverings are not required while swimming, exercising or participating in sports activities; while giving a speech, presentation or performance for a broadcast or to an audience; and during religious worship. The order does strongly encourage worshippers to wear coverings.
• Coverings are not required for children under the age of 6.
• Businesses must make all reasonable efforts to maintain 6 feet of separation between customers at all times.
• Businesses must sanitize carts, baskets and surfaces used by customers. High-touch areas, including all door handles, must be sanitized every two hours at a minimum.
Social gatherings and activities are limited to 10 participants while indoors and 20 participants while outdoors. This limit does not apply to religious entities, students in classrooms or gatherings in facilities governed by other capacity limitations.
During these gatherings, social distancing must be maintained, and coverings must be worn indoors and outdoors when unable to maintain the social distancing minimum of 6 feet of separation from other individuals not in the same household. This requirement does not apply to individuals engaged in school athletic practices or other outdoor exercising.
Masks were previously only mandatory in 13 counties, but the governor added 10 new counties – including Forrest – upon the recommendation of Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer. The 10 new counties have been identified as “additional regions that are at higher risk for transmission of COVID-19,” according to the order.
The order allows local authorities to enact more restrictive measures, and such measures have been in effect in Hattiesburg since March 18. Mayor Toby Barker has issued a series of executive orders limiting business and restaurant capacities, enforcing social distancing and requiring masks to be worn while in public spaces.