A state-ordered mask mandate spread into some Northeast Mississippi counties on Thursday as the state continues to target new hotspots for COVID-19.

Going into effect on Monday, the new executive order from Gov. Tate Reeves adds eight more counties, including Lee County and Pontotoc County, to those where the wearing of a mask in public is required. The criteria is either 200 cases in a two-week period or more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents.

Alcorn County is not included, although some stores are requiring masks.

The governor is also extending the Safe Return order to Aug. 17.

The orders came on a day in which the state again set a new record for new reported positive COVID-19 cases – 1,775, with 48 additional deaths.

Dr. Paul Byers, state epidemiologist, said the hospitalization numbers are “astoundingly high,” with 972 positive COVID-19 cases hospitalized across the state.

“The overwhelming of our health care systems will affect everybody,” Reeves said during Thursday’s briefing. “If you get in a car wreck, you don’t want to be treated in a tent like we saw in other parts of the world and, in fact, like we saw in other parts of the country. You want to get the best possible care.”

Byers said health officials are seeing transmission within nuclear families and “a lot of transmission that’s occurring just from interacting with that family member that you don’t see very often or interacting with folks and family members at gatherings like funerals. We’re at a point where we need to act as if every single person we come in contact with has COVID.”

Earlier in the week, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs encouraged people to “please stay away from your extended family” and “lay low for a while.”

Reeves said the state is seeing early signs that citizens’ efforts are working.

“You have the power to save lives or, conversely, you have the power to cost lives,” he said.

Staff Writer

Jebb Johnston is a 1991 Alcorn Central High School graduate and a 1995 Ole Miss journalism graduate. His primary beats are city and county government.

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