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Mask mandate in Mississippi expires, but health officials urge caution
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Governor Tate Reeves chose to remove his mandates slowing COVID spread
Kobee Vance, MPB News

Mississippi's Governor has removed almost all mandates designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Governor says vaccines are the state's path forward.

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Mississippians will no longer be required to wear masks in public, bars across the state can stay open past 11:00 p.m., and restaurants can fill their building to maximum capacity unless local orders say otherwise. Governor Tate Reeves says the state is making large strides in coronavirus vaccinations and says transmission and hospitalizations from the virus are much lower than in January. "In my view, this is the way forward. As more and more people are vaccinated, there will be more and more immunity throughout our state. This is a far better way to flatten the curve and prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed."

But Spring Break is just days away, and state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs is urging caution because the virus is still here. "Do stuff indoors, don't group together indoors with a lot of folks. There's no way in heck I would go sit in a crowded bar right now. There are safe things to do if you're outdoors at something and you're spaced out nicely from other folks. But you can catch COVID and we can mess this up. So please, help us just be a little bit cautious especially going through spring break."

Dr. Dobbs says the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine is in Mississippi, and residents can start getting the vaccination as early as Thursday or Friday this week. "It's a single dose that has been shown to be highly effective at preventing severe illness and death. To be clear, it does not show the same efficacy at preventing any symptomatic illness. But where it counts, it looks good."

The Governor's new order does extend mask requirements in k-12 schools, and the Department of Health has issued new guidance for residents with serious medical conditions and those age 65 and older to get vaccinated before going to any social gatherings.