In keeping with Gov. Tate Reeves’s “Safe Return” order – which, in part, allows the reopening of gyms and restaurants with limited seating requirements – officials from the City of Hattiesburg have extended the city’s mandatory mask order until at least July 6 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On June 28, Mayor Toby Barker issued Executive Order 2020-11, which requires all employees in the city – along with patrons at establishments such as retail establishments, barber shops and salons – to wear masks at all times. The order was originally set to expire the same day the mayor extended it.
“I think our folks need to prepare that masks are going to be part of our future for the foreseeable future,” Barker said in a Facebook post. “We’re seeing a lot of new positive (COVID-19) cases around the state – Rankin County jumped ahead of Forrest County over the weekend, in terms of positive cases.
“We’re seeing Wayne County continue to climb, and Jones County. We have to stay the course, because ultimately a lot of those people around us are coming to use our health care system if they overrun their facilities. So the message to you – not because I say to do it, but because it’s the right thing to do – put your mask on when you go out.”
The Hattiesburg-area health care system consists of four entities: Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg Clinic, Merit Health Wesley and Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative. As of the morning of June 28, the total number of COVID-19 tests conducted in that system stood at 22,417. Of those, 2,050 are positive, 19,660 are negative and 708 are pending.
Thirty-seven hospitalized patients are currently confirmed to have COVID-19 – down from the average of 39.79 over the last 14 days – with 16 of those patients in ICU. Zero hospitalized patients, including ICUs, are under investigation for the virus.
Forrest County has 786 positive cases, while Lamar County has 393 for a total of 1,179 in the metro area. As far as the five-day average of cases, both counties are below the 10 new positive cases per day.
“You saw (on June 28) well over 600 new cases statewide,” Barker said. “I know the coast and Harrison County had over 40 new cases just today. We continue hopefully to keep our numbers low, and that just reminds us to again stay the course.”