Local officials have stirred up a firestorm of controversy by enacting face mask mandates that carry the potential penalty of a fine and/or jail time for violators.
Tallahatchie County and the municipalities of Charleston, Tutwiler and Webb now require that face masks be worn in public places. As of Tuesday afternoon, Sumner officials had not yet taken that plunge.
With the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing an upward trajectory — on Monday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported that for the period of July 6 to July 12, Tallahatchie County had the fourth-highest incidence of positive cases per capita among the state’s 82 counties — we understand why our elected officials feel the urgency to act.
At the advice of state health experts, Gov. Tate Reeves last week signed an executive order establishing a mask mandate and imposing other restrictions for 13 counties in the Magnolia State identified as “hot spots,” where spikes in cases have created a higher risk for transmission. In our area, Grenada, Quitman and Sunflower counties made the hot list.
Many areas around the state that had relaxed and opened back up following several months of lockdowns, quarantines and strict public curfews are now tightening down because too many people forgot the continued need for exercising personal restraint and went hog-wild after being cooped up for so long — tossing all care to the wind.
There is an incredibly delicate balance between safeguarding individual liberties and acting for the sake of the greater good. The latter never ceases to be a difficult argument to win in the court of public opinion. Nor should it. Our freedoms are precious.
There is no easy answer, but we do have a responsibility to the rule of law and each other.
Our government leaders do not all agree on the proper course of action, but most are stepping out on faith in embracing the recommended best practices of medical researchers.
That would seem to be the smart thing to do.