Lowndes County residents will be required to wear a face mask in public settings through the end of April, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors decided during its regular meeting Monday.
Or will they?
One sticking point: the county hasn’t had a mask mandate since its previous mandate expired Dec. 15, 2020, which means the board has approved the extension of an ordinance that doesn’t exist.
Asked to address that point, county officials didn’t appear to be particularly concerned with the handling of the matter.
“Yes, it probably needed to be an ordinance instead of an extension,” Board Attorney Tim Hudson said.
Board President Trip Hairston concurred, although he didn’t appear overly-concerned about the procedural faux pas.
“The thing is, it’s mostly a recommendation anyway,” Hairston said. “It’s not enforced.”
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks raised the mask discussion near the end of Monday’s meeting.
“The governor says we’re ready to rock and roll and everything is open,” Brooks said, noting Gov. Tate Reeves’ ending the state-wide mask mandate and rolling back capacity restrictions for buildings on March 2. “But the (COVID) numbers are rising again, so the only stipulation I would make is for people to wear a mask. I think we should extend the mask mandate until the end of April, then we can come back and reevaluate it at that time. That’s my motion.”
With only Hairston voting against the proposal, the measure passed, 4-1.
The board’s attitude toward mask requirements was emphasized just after the mask vote when Parks Director Roger Short approached the board to recommend the county’s eight community centers be reopened after being closed because of COVID restrictions since last March.
“I don’t know where to go with this recommendation,” Short said.” If we have a mask mandate, I don’t know how we could enforce that. I think we might have to table it.”
“Why?” District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders asked. “It’s the same situation with the county. The county doesn’t really have any way to enforce it, either.”
Brooks said lack of enforcement doesn’t mean the mask mandate doesn’t have value.
“At this juncture, it’s the psychological notions attached to wearing a mask,” Brooks said. “The people who don’t want to wear a mask will not wear it. But I think the stipulations you have in this recommendation, including the masks, are fine. If somebody rents a community center for a birthday or a family reunion and somebody comes in and doesn’t want to wear a mask, the lessee can deal with it.”
The board voted 5-0 to re-open the county’s eight community centers — Anderson Grove, Artesia, Caledonia, Charles Chambry, Concord, Crawford, New Hope and Plum Grove. Those using the community center are required to wear masks and to arrange for tables and seating to allow six feet of social distancing between them.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is email@example.com.
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