Thursday afternoon, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors got their wish: Gov. Tate Reeves added Lowndes County to the list of counties that will require citizens to wear masks in public places.
The Governor’s executive order comes three weeks after the city of Columbus implemented its own masks requirement. Lowndes County supervisors balked on following suit, however, deferring to the governor.
You might think that ends the confusion.
Unfortunately, it does the opposite.
The Governor’s mask order is simply a matter of appearing to take decisive action without actually taking action.
The requirement has more exceptions than the fine print on a time-share condo.
The very first exception listed on the order provides a blanket excuse to refuse to wear a mask. It states persons who cannot wear a mask due to “a medical or behavioral condition, who have trouble breathing or are incapacitated,” are exempt from the requirement.
For the sake of brevity, the Governor’s order could just as easily be stated, “Wear a mask… if you feel like it.”
We now have two distinctly different mask requirements in Lowndes County.
The city of Columbus mask requirement lists no exceptions. The county’s requirement has virtually no enforceable restrictions, since it leaves mask-wearing, for all practical purposes, up to the individual.
As a result, the rules shift dramatically as a person crosses into or out of the city limits.
By failing to implement its own mask requirements that mirror those of the city, the county supervisors’ decision to pass the buck is not only an example of failed leadership, it creates even more confusion at a time when our community needs to be of one mind on this important (and easy to implement) safety precaution.
There is nothing to prevent the supervisors from implementing their own mask policy — a real mask policy — even after the Governor’s order since local requirements can be more rigorous than state requirements.
The supervisors should do just that at their earliest convenience.
We don’t need two mask requirements in a single county, just a single one that actually achieves something.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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