Booneville leaders are strongly encouraging the use of masks in public places to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, but stopped short of issuing an official mandate, as Prentiss County’s number of cases passed the 200 mark this week.
Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a statement recommending the use of masks by all citizens whenever they are in a public place such as business, retail store, or any other establishment open to the public. The move does not set an official requirement for mask use and the decision to wear a mask remains up to individual citizens. Individual businesses remain free to set their own policies regarding mask use by employees and customers. There is no city penalty established for not wearing a mask.
Mayor Chris Lindley asked the board to consider the recommendation as cases of the virus continue to rise in the county. The latest figures released by the Mississippi State Department of Health Tuesday afternoon show a total of 203 confirmed cases of the virus in the county and a total of six confirmed deaths related to the virus.
Lindley shared a letter signed by the Mississippi Municipal League, the Mississippi Hospital Association, the Mississippi Nurses Association and the Mississippi State Medical Association encouraging mask use by all citizens as well as continued physical distancing and hand washing as the best ways to reduce the spread of the virus.
Ward 1 Alderman Jason Michael said he believes masks do help prevent the spread and are a way people can help protect each other. He said the virus must be brought under control to protect citizens.
Ward 4 Alderman William Scott agreed and said while he believes people should wear masks, it must be an individual decision and he could only support a recommendation for mask use, not an official requirement.
Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Williams also said he was opposed to an absolute requirement, but would be OK with recommending the use.
Ward 3 Alderman Mark McCoy said he believes it should be left up to the individual but was comfortable with encouraging the use of masks as long as there remains no penalty and it is not mandatory.