A statewide face mask mandate continues to be unlikely for Mississippi, although some are calling for such a step.

The Mississippi State Medical Association on Tuesday publicly encouraged a mask mandate, arguing that the state’s health care system cannot sustain the trajectory of the outbreak.

The state is currently requiring people to wear a mask in public in 13 counties.

“We believe shining a light on those counties will help get compliance in those counties,” Gov. Tate Reeves said in Tuesday’s press briefing. “The reality is if we just issue a statewide mandate, there are going to be people in our state who are going to say, ‘Well, I’m in Tishomingo County, and he just did that because things are really bad in Hinds County, and so I’m not going to necessarily adhere to it.’”

Hospital capacity remains a growing concern. Ten intensive care units in Mississippi currently have no beds available, said Thomas Dobbs, state health officer.

“It is harming patient care, and it’s not just COVID,” he said.

On June 27, the state had 490 patients hospitalized. As of Tuesday morning, that number was 805. Another 254 suspected cases were hospitalized pending test results.

“This is, by far, the largest number of any time since March 11 when we received our fist case,” said Reeves. “It’s real. It’s serious. We are having conversations that we do not want to have on our next steps.”

About 17 percent of COVID-19 cased end up hospitalized, said Dobbs, and they tend to have prolonged hospital stays.

Magnolia Regional Health Center reported 17 in-patients being treated for COVID-19 Tuesday morning, rising from 15. Alcorn County’s positive case count rose a couple to 113.

The state on Tuesday rolled out the MEMA COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program, which is intended to relieve the financial burdens on counties and municipalities caused by the pandemic through reimbursement for pandemic-related expenses. The Legislature allocated $70 million of CARES Act funds for the program.

“Hopefully, it can help keep more people on the job and prevent more layoffs,” said Reeves.

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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