JACKSON — The Mississippi State Medical Association on Friday urged all school districts to require masks for students and employees as COVID-19 cases continue to proliferate with the highly contagious delta variant.
“At MSMA, we love to follow the science. We digested it, and we believe in mask mandates for the schools,” the association’s president, Dr. Mark Horne of Laurel, said Friday during an online briefing about the pandemic.
The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said during the briefing that he applauds school administrators and school board members who stand firm for mask mandates, even as some face pushback from angry parents.
“It’s tough to be a good leader, but it’s good for the kids,” Dobbs said. “It’s going to save lives.”
Many districts are leaving decisions about face coverings up to students and parents, saying they don’t want to set a requirement if Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is not issuing a statewide mask mandate for schools.
A state lawmaker whose mother worked as a nurse and died in 2020 after contracting COVID-19 said he supports the medical association’s recommendation.
“When the folks who are eye-witnessing the devastation of this Delta variant recommend something, we need to listen up,” Democratic Rep. Tom Miles of Forest said in a statement Friday.
Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation.
Dobbs said Thursday that the delta variant of the virus is “sweeping across Mississippi like a tsunami.” Numbers of new cases in the past several days have been comparable to numbers that the state Health Department reported in January, before vaccinations were widely available.
The Health Department on Friday reported 2,094 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total in the state to more than 358,000 since the pandemic started in the spring of 2020. The state has also reported more than 7,600 deaths from COVID-19 during that time.