Four people tested positive for COVID-19 in the two local public school systems last week, according to information posted on district websites.
The COVID-19 cases were reported just before Gov. Tate Reeves held a midweek press conference announcing the end of the statewide mask mandate and rolling back several other COVID-19 safety restrictions.
According to a statement from the Tate County School District, one individual tested positive at Coldwater High School on Monday, Sept. 28.
As a precautionary measure, Tate County school officials activated the hybrid model for grades six through 12 at Coldwater Elementary and Coldwater High School. A hybrid model, or blended learning, mixes traditional school attendance with home instruction.
Three individuals in Senatobia schools tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Sept. 30, according to the district’s website. A statement from the district said one COVID-19 case was reported at the elementary, middle and high schools.
Officials from Tate County and Senatobia School Districts said contact tracing was conducted and all individuals in close contact (within six feet for 15 minutes or more) with infected people were notified.
A statement from each district said those individuals would be quarantined for 14 days from last known contact. Students may not attend school or any school-related activities while in quarantine, but will be able to continue learning.
Under Gov. Reeves’ latest executive order, Mississippians will only be required to wear a face covering when they are inside a school building or classroom, when outdoors on a school campus and at close contact businesses such as salons and barbershops. The order went into effect Wednesday, Sept. 30, and expires Wednesday, Nov. 11.
“I want to be clear. I still believe that masks work,” Reeves said at his press conference. “I think the facts and the data in our state and across this country bear that out. I still plan to wear one, and I expect that most people in our state will still wear them often. It is the smart, it is the prudent and it is the wise thing to do. But there is a difference between something being wise and something being a government mandate.”
Reeves’ decision to end the statewide mask mandate comes as similar mask sanctions continue in more than 30 states. Mississippi is the first state to rescind a statewide mask mandate.
Reeves presented an executive order on Aug. 4 requiring masks in public after previously issuing mask mandates on a county-by-county basis after COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in those areas spiked.
His new directive bans public gatherings of more than 20 people indoors and more than 100 people outdoors where individuals not in the same household are gathered. The limit on gatherings does not apply to religious buildings, voting precincts or students in classrooms.
The order still encourages Mississippians to adhere to state and federal health guidelines and does not prohibit counties and cities from adopting stricter versions of the statewide order.
Tate County has reported 1,020 cases of COVID-19 and 38 deaths since the pandemic began in March, according to statistics from the Mississippi Department of Health.